Two St. Thomas Students win Prestigious Goldwater Scholarships

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Sen. Barry M. Goldwater (R.- Ariz.), who had served 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The program was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

This year’s 282 Goldwater scholars – 108 women and 174 men – were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,123 students nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Virtually all intend to obtain Ph.D. degrees. Twenty scholars are mathematics majors, 194 are majoring in science and related fields, 58 are majoring in engineering and 10 are computer science majors. Many of the scholars have dual majors in disciplines combining mathematics, science, engineering and computer science.

Kia Johnson

Dr. Kevin Theissen, UST assistant professor of geology who is St. Thomas’ liaison to the Goldwater program, shared the following biosketches of St. Thomas’ new Goldwater scholars:

Kia Johnson, a junior majoring in biology and psychology, has done research under the direction of Dr. Thomas Ippoliti of the Biology Department in St. Thomas’ College of Arts and Sciences, and additional help from chemistry professors Dr. William Ojala and Dr. Kristine Wammer of the College of Arts and Sciences. Her research essay was titled “Synthesis of a Radiopaque Polymer for Implications in Balloon Catheters and other Medical Devices.” Her project entailed making a material that can be incorporated into balloon catheters which would work as a tracking device. She also related it to her desire to help people, explaining "how through science you can help thousands of people directly or indirectly." Johnson plans to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience and conduct research in the biomedical sciences.    

Chloe Lawyer, a sophomore, has done research under the direction of Dr. Kurt Illig of the Biology Department in St. Thomas’ College of Arts and Sciences. Her research essay was titled “Changes in dopamine receptor expression in the orbitofrontal cortex accompany an associative learning deficit during adolescence.” In layman's parlance, she investigated the role of dopamine in learning the predictive value of environmental stimuli, and how developmental changes in dopamine receptor expression may underlie differences in learning and drug-related behaviors. Lawyer plans to plan pursue a Ph.D in neuroscience and perform research while teaching at a university. Much of her time is spent conducting research in Dr. Illig’s lab and tutoring students in biology. In her spare time, she does public speaking for at-risk youth.

Chloe Lawyer

Ryan Augustin, a sophomore biochemistry major, and Robert White, a junior biology major, also were nominated for the scholarship.

Recent Goldwater scholars have been awarded 78 Rhodes Scholarships, 112 Marshall Awards and 104 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships. Since 1998, 18 St. Thomas students have received Goldwater Scholarships.

The state’s other colleges and universities with winners for 2011-2012 are the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St. Olaf College, Minnesota State University Moorhead, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Carleton College.

In addition to Johnson and  Lawyer seven other students from Minnesota won  Goldwater Scholarships: Andrew Bendelsmith (Macalester College), Adam Birdsall (Oberlin College), Sarah Ludwig (St. Olaf College), Amy Moorhouse (Minnesota State University Moorhead), Drew Neavin (Colorado State University), Mark Storm (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) and Erika Zetterlund (Augustana College).  Six other Minnesota students were scholarship honorable mentions.

In its 24-year history, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation has awarded 6,200 scholarships worth approximately $39 million. Its trustees plan to award about 300 scholarships for the 2013-2014 academic year.

For more information about the Goldwater Scholarships, contact Theissen, (651) 962-5243.