UMass Amherst Junior Named Goldwater Scholar

April 14, 2005

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AMHERST, Mass. – Heather A. Harrington, of Concord, a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has won a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. She is one of just 300 students in the nation to win the award for the 2005-06 academic year.

Goldwater Scholars are selected on the basis of academic merit, and are students who intend to pursue careers in science, mathematics, or engineering. This year, 1,091 students were nominated for the award from colleges and universities nationwide. The scholarship covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 a year.

Harrington is a Commonwealth College honors student majoring in applied mathematics with a minor in philosophy. Since last year, she has been involved in a research project with two faculty members and two other undergraduates to develop a mathematical model to predict how a chemical inhibitor affects the growth of tumors in the rat cornea.

Professor Nathaniel Whitaker, one of the leaders of the study and Harrington''s academic advisor, calls her an “exceptional student who is very aggressive about her career plans. It''s very, very rare for an undergraduate to pursue research opportunities with such enthusiasm.”

Those research opportunities have included a full scholarship to participate in the Park City Mathematics Institute in Utah last year and selection for the highly competitive Mathematics and Theoretical Biology Institute at Los Alamos National Laboratory this summer.

According to Whitaker, Harrington brings the same zeal to every facet of her life. She''s a member of the UMass women''s crew team, an undergraduate teaching assistant in mathematics, plays in a local bridge club and is involved in several volunteer activities.

“She''s the perfect person to get this type of scholarship,” says Whitaker. “I think she''s going to make UMass proud.”

That sentiment is echoed by Professor Susan Whitbourne, director of the Office of National Scholarship Advancement (ONSA), who assisted Harrington and three other campus nominees during the Goldwater Scholarship application process.

“The Goldwater Scholarship is a tribute to Heather''s hard work and her research efforts,” says Whitbourne. “Applications for these highly competitive awards are evaluated as scientific grant proposals and must be at the cutting edge of science. However, they can''t be too technical – they need to be specific, but still be put in broad perspective. Heather did an exceptional job throughout a tough vetting process on and off campus.”

According to Whitbourne, Harrington is the fifth UMass Amherst student to receive a Goldwater Scholarship since 1998.

Harrington, whose honors thesis is based on mathematical models of tumor- induced angiogenesis, says the scholarship will allow her to focus more time on her research. She plans to continue her biomathematics studies in graduate school.

“I don''t think most undergraduates have had the opportunities I''ve had,” she says. “I''m rowing with an Olympic coach, Jim Dietz, conducting research, and I''m an undergraduate grader for a calculus class. I really appreciate all of the support I''ve received from my professors and ONSA.”

Goldwater Scholars have gone on to be awarded 58 Rhodes Scholarships, 72 Marshall Awards, and numerous other prestigious fellowships. The 17-year-old scholarship program honors the late U.S. Sen. Barry M. Goldwater.

Heather Harrington can be reached at 978/505-9543 or by e-mail at hharring@student.umass.edu.

Susan Whitbourne can be reached at 413/545-4306 or by e-mail at swhitbo@psych.umass.edu.