Two St. Thomas students win prestigious Goldwater Scholarships

Two University of St. Thomas juniors have won prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Jillian Schleicher, who has a double major in geology and physics, and Vladimir Vinnik, a chemistry major, will receive the $7,500 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 278 Goldwater scholars – 122 women and 156 men – were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1, 111 students nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Virtually all intend to obtain Ph.D. degrees. Seventeen are mathematics majors, 199 are majoring in science or related fields, 53 are majoring in engineering, and nine are computer science majors. Many of the scholars have dual majors in disciplines combining mathematics, science, engineering and computer disciplines.

Dr. Kevin Theissen, a professor of geology who is St. Thomas' liaison to the Goldwater program, shared the following biosketches of St. Thomas' new Goldwater scholars.

  • Jillian Schleicher, from Shoreview, Minn., has done research in geology under the direction of St. Thomas professors Dr. Thomas Hickson and Dr. Lisa Lamb. She has worked on physics research under the direction of Dr. Marty Johnston. Schleicher has presented her collaborative work with each of these faculty members at national meetings over the last year. Her research essay for the scholarship was titled "Implications of Stable Isotopes from Paleolakes and Their Relevance in Miocene Climate Change." She hopes to go into research in the geosciences and believes that her work in physics and math have given her a unique way of looking at geological data. She plans to work toward a Ph.D. and potentially to do research and teach at the university level.
  • Vladimir Vinnik, from Eagan, Minn., has done research in chemistry under the direction of St. Thomas chemistry professor Dr. J. Thomas Iippoliti. Vinnik's research essay for the scholarship was titled "Synthesis of a Topologically Designed Novel Antibiotic." Prior to his selection as a Goldwater scholar, Vinnik won awards from both Chemistry and Biology departments for his coursework and presented at a University of Minnesota Materials Science Undergraduate Research Expo, making it into the final round of evaluation for his work with Ippoliti. Vinnik would like to embark on a career that combines organic chemistry, mathematics and physics to address environmental threats such as drug-resistant bacteria. He plans to work toward a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry and also hopes to become a professor.

St. Thomas' other nominee for a Goldwater Scholarship this year was junior biochemistry major Daniel Sjolund.

Recent Goldwater scholars have been awarded 73 Rhodes Scholarships, 105 Marshall Awards, 90 Churchill Scholarships (nine of the 14 awarded in the United States in 2010) and numerous other prestigious fellowships.

Other Goldwater scholars this year from Minnesota include two University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students, one Macalester student and four others studying at the University of Rochester, Hamilton College, Boston College and Northwestsern University.

In its 24-year history, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation has awarded 6,079 scholarships worth approximately $58 million. Its trustees plan to award about 300 scholarships for the 2011-2012 academic year.

For more information about the Goldwater Scholarship program, contact Dr. Kevin Theissen, (651) 962-5243.