Four UMass Amherst Undergrads Named Goldwater Scholars, Setting a New Record for Top Achievement

Yekaterina Kori
From left, Samantha R. Giffen, Aaron P. Dunbrack and Katharine V. Greco

AMHERST, Mass. – All four University of Massachusetts Amherst students who were nominated for awards under the Barry Goldwater Scholarship in Education program have been chosen to receive the prestigious awards that support students in science, mathematics, engineering and computer disciplines.

It is a record for UMass Amherst, which last year had three Goldwater Scholars and an honorable mention. Colleges and universities are invited to nominate no more than four students, and of Massachusetts schools, only UMass Amherst and MIT had all four nominees selected as scholars.

The UMass Amherst recipients are:

  • Aaron P. Dunbrack, a sophomore from Framingham who is majoring in astronomy and physics and plans to earn a Ph.D. in theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity
  • Yekaterina Kori, a junior from Northborough who is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and plans to earn a Ph.D. and do research in molecular and cell biology or molecular pharmacology
  • Samantha R. Giffen, a junior from Millstone Township, N.J., who is majoring in public health and microbiology and plans to earn a Ph.D. and do research in infectious disease and bacterial pathogenesis
  • Katharine V. Greco, a junior from Saugerties, N.Y., who is majoring in chemical engineering and plans to earn a Ph.D. in that field developing renewable energy technologies

Professor of psychological and brain sciences Susan K. Whitbourne, who directs the Office of National Scholarship Advisement program at UMass Amherst, called the achievement a team effort and the culmination of a long-established goal for the students and faculty mentors involved.

“This puts us in truly elite standing among colleges in the fields of mathematics, science, engineering and computer disciplines,” said Whitbourne. “It is a marvelous achievement for the students and for the university. Our success reflects the dedication of our faculty mentors who support the outstanding work of our student scientists.”

In all, 260 scholarships went to sophomores and juniors from the U.S., selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,206 nominees in mathematics, science and engineering. Thirty-four of those selected are mathematics majors, 154 are science and related majors, 68 are majoring in engineering and four are computer science majors. Many have dual majors in a variety of mathematics, science, engineering and computer disciplines.

Twelve of the scholars this year call Massachusetts home. UMass Amherst and MIT outpaced all other Massachusetts colleges and universities, including Smith with two and Harvard, Tufts, Brandeis and Holy Cross with one each.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was authorized by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served for 30 years in the U.S. Senate. Since its first award in 1989, the Goldwater Foundation reports having awarded 7,428 scholarships worth approximately $48 million to students in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

According to the foundation, recent Goldwater Scholars have subsequently been awarded 86 Rhodes Scholarships, 123 Marshall Awards, 123 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellowships. In 2014-15 alone, two previous Goldwater Scholarship winners from UMass received NSF Fellowships and two received NSF honorable mention recognition.

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