The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation announced the national awardees last week and UMass Amherst has three Goldwater scholars among four nominees (four is the maximum number of applications that each institution can put forward).
The aim of the foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scholars to work as scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. The Goldwater, a nationally competitive scholarship, supports students with a passion for research and potential to contribute to their disciplines, and who plan to pursue a graduate degree.
The Goldwater scholars from UMass Amherst are all Commonwealth Honors College juniors committed to a career in STEM research.
Meredith Stone, an astronomy and physics double major, plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics, teach, be involved in science outreach, and conduct astronomy research at the university level.
“It really feels like the culmination of literal years of work,” Stone said. “I applied for the Goldwater Scholarship as a sophomore as well, but wasn't chosen as one of UMass' four nominees. I came back this October, with my previous application experience and another year of research under my belt, and did my best to demonstrate that I had grown as a student and a researcher. It was a lot of work, but it paid off, and I can't thank Madalina and the folks at ONSA enough for their help throughout the process.”
“I have been incredibly thankful for the support that CHC has offered throughout my time at UMass,” Stone continued. “I love astronomy and physics classes and could totally take nothing else, but the honors classes that I've taken have universally been wonderful experiences that got me outside my comfort zone and helped me to think about the world in a different way.”
Nicholas Sbalbi, a chemical engineering student, plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science or chemical engineering, and conduct research involving the manipulation of microscale structure to tune macroscale material properties.
“It’s an honor to be recognized for my potential as a researcher along with the other 409 amazingly talented undergrads in STEM fields throughout the United States,” Sbalbi said. “I always had an interest in doing research growing up, but being in Honors and receiving encouragement from staff, peers, and faculty helped me get started. Not to mention having students around me doing their own amazing research encourages me to continue with my own.
The more work you put into your research, the more you get out, and loving what you do makes it all the easier.”
Renos Zabounidis, a computer science and mathematics double major, plans to pursue a Ph.D. in cognitive machine learning, and conduct research in the intersections between statistics, machine learning, and cognitive science.
“For the Goldwater, you can shoutout your mentors and their names are there forever associated with the scholarship, and only up to four people from the University a year get it. I think it’s really cool that my mentors also get recognition from it,” Zabounidis said. “Mentoring an undergraduate to do research is very labor intensive. All the professors and graduate students who’ve helped me over the years live very busy lives but they’ve helped me anyways...I think that’s what’s special to me. It’s a bit of a way to give back in a sense, because it’s not like it’s a financial relationship where I pay for the mentorship. The way you give back is by succeeding and being able to shout them out.”
These students represent UMass Amherst in the highest national circle of excellence in terms of scientific research. They have been recognized with other internal awards, presented at conferences, and some even published in professional journals.
“I am proud to work with UMass Amherst students and be part of a great village of faculty, mentors, and advisers who have contributed to their success and the visibility of our university nationally,” said ONSA Director Madalina Akli.
Student nominations for the Goldwater were made possible by UMass Amherst’s Office of National Scholarship Advisement (ONSA). Akli encourages STEM sophomores and juniors to contact ONSA for advising. Each year, ONSA nominates four sophomores or juniors. ONSA is an advising service available to all UMass Amherst undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the University’s alumni community.