Four Juniors Win Goldwater Fellowship for STEM Research

Four students at the Claremont
Colleges were awarded the 2014 Barry Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes college sophomores and juniors who demonstrate academic excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. 

Emily Darby PO ’15, Dillon Dong PO ’15, Mackenzie Leake SC ’15, and Hannah Wayment-Steele PO ’15 received the award.

“I was really excited and surprised,” Leake said. “My professors were all very happy about it, probably even more excited than I was.”

Each nominating college or university may recommend four students to the Barry Goldwater Scholarship Foundation, which was established in the ’80s by the U.S. Congress to honor former five-term U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. There were 1,166 students nominated this year, and the foundation awarded the scholarship to 283 students.

“The qualities we are looking at are a real passion for doing research in mathematics, science, or engineering,” said Dr. W. Franklin Gilmore, the president of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship Foundation. “All of the applicants would be considered really outstanding students, but we have to distinguish who are the top scholars … and it’s a real challenge to make those decisions.”

All four of the scholarship recipients have conducted research within their fields of interest. Dong, who is majoring in astrophysics and mathematics, started doing biology research in high school through a collaborative program with the University of California, San Francisco.

“I pretty much wanted to go into physics ever since I came to Pomona [College], and
after taking an intro to astronomy class, I just kind of stumbled into astrophysics … I
knew this was the thing for me,” Dong said.

Leake, a physics major, plans to attend graduate school to study computer science. 

“There’s so much we know about computers and the human brain, but there is also a lot we don’t know about each of those,” she said. “It’s a really exciting time to be in the field and working at the intersection of these two areas.”

After graduating from Pomona, Darby hopes to attend Stanford University and continue researching alternative energy with a focus on chemistry or chemical engineering. She has already conducted research on alternative energy sources at Vanderbilt University and the University of California, Davis.

Wayment-Steele, a double major in chemistry and applied mathematics, has conducted research that involves simulating cell membranes and
investigating ion interactions. She plans to continue combining these interests if possible.

“I’d like to go to graduate school and get a Ph.D. in biophysics or
material science or something in the midst of math and chemistry,” she said.

Gilmore, who has been working for the foundation for more than 20 years, said that when scholarship recipients apply for graduate studies, “putting the fact that they are a Goldwater Scholar makes a difference when getting into the best graduate schools.”

He said that it is important to reward students for taking initiative in conducting STEM-related

“We need more really creative scientists and engineers, people who will
bring the next really innovative thing to this nation,” Gilmore said. “That is
what is going to keep this nation strong going forward.” 

The scholarship covers up to $7,500 of tuition or other expenses for the upcoming academic year, according to the foundation’s website.

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