Goldwater Scholar Profiles: Purdue Honors College

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on 2014 Goldwater Scholarship winners who are students in public university honors programs.

Haefa Mansour – College of Engineering and Honors College

A major in Chemical Engineering, Haefa Mansour is a junior from Mentor, Ohio who intends to pursue a research-oriented career as a professor of chemical/biomolecular engineering and to focus on new protein-based materials for better surgical adhesives. Haefa has worked extensively in the Birck Nanotechnology Center and progressed with her team to the world competition of the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition in 2012. She has worked closely with her mentor, Dr. Julie Liu, Professor of Chemical Engineering, on protein and tissue engineering at Purdue.

Ms. Mansour is actively involved with the Stamps Scholars Program which is also under the HC umbrella.

“Taking the leadership initiative as a freshman, Haefa was named Assistant Director of the Purdue Student Government. She was selected to participate in a weekly leadership session instructed by France Cordova, President of Purdue University, and other important Purdue faculty. Haefa was also named Chairperson of the Engineering Honors Learning Community and is responsible for managing the events hosted by this group of honors engineering students.”

 Sean McDowell – College of Engineering and Honors College

Sean McDowell, from Stevensville, Michigan, is pursuing a degree in Biomedical Engineering with the goal of developing next-generation prosthetic limbs that improve the body’s interaction with a motor prosthesis through a neural interface. He received the Industrial Roundtable Scholarship from Cognizant Technology Solutions and has also presented his research at the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Symposium. He has conducted research in Purdue’s NeuroProstheses Research Laboratory with Dr. Kevin Otto, Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering.

Mr. McDowell has been an integral part of the HONR mentor program since its inception in 2012. He currently serves as one of two mentor captains in Honors College and will serve as the head mentor in 2015.

“If I hadn’t had been involved with the Honors College, I never would have applied for the Goldwater Scholarship. [An HC faculty member] brought up the idea my sophomore year when mentoring for the first-year honors seminar, and then she kept encouraging me to apply through the start of my junior year. Although the research I wrote about is focused on my work in biomedical engineering, my work with the Honors College helped reinforce the balance of skills I needed to be a successful candidate.” – Sean McDowell  April 15, 2014

Nicholas Pogranichniy – College of Science and University Honors Program

Sophomore Nicholas Pogranichniy is from West Lafayette, Indiana, and is a Biochemistry major who plans to pursue a Ph.D in Chemistry. He has worked closely in the lab with Dr. Simpson, Professor of Analytical and Physical Chemistry.  Although the Goldwater Scholarship is open to sophomores and juniors, it is much more challenging for sophomores to win.  This year, only 16% of the scholarships were awarded to sophomores.  

Goldwater Scholar Profiles: Clemson (Calhoun Honors College)

Editor’s Note: The following information comes from Clemson University, and is another in a series of profiles we are posting about 2014 Goldwater Scholars who are students in public university honors programs.

John Farmer, a junior physics major with an astrophysics emphasis area, was born in Florence, SC, and attended Cheraw High School for three years before studying musical performance at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.  He has maintained a 4.0 GPA in a departmental Honors track curriculum while engaging in many research projects.  Past work includes creative inquiry with Dr. Brittain of Clemson University on near-infrared spectroscopy of young stars, radiation simulation for the LHC’s CMS detector as an intern for Fermilab, and galactic astrophysics as an intern at the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile.

A Dixon fellow in the Honors College, he has been named a 2014 Goldwater Scholar and has been nominated for the 2014 Astronaut Scholarship.  In addition, he has been awarded the L.D. Huff awards for outstanding sophomore physics major and outstanding junior physics major, and the College of Engineering and Sciences outstanding junior in the sciences award.  He plans to pursue a PhD in physics and explore a career in research.

The following is a first person account from Goldwater Scholar Kate Showers:

My name is Kate Showers, and I am a junior in Bioengineering from Nashville, TN. I recently received the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering which is a federally endowed scholarship program that aims to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering.

I became involved with research the summer following my freshman year as an intern at the Vanderbilt Initiative for Surgery and Engineering studying image-guided surgery. Upon returning to Clemson, I joined a Creative Inquiry team exploring ultrasound application in diagnosing soft tissue injuries. This past summer, I worked for the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering at the University of Washington studying human perception methods. In addition to research, I am a Big Sister with Women in Science and Engineering where I mentor freshmen women in STEM and assist in outreach events. In addition, I am the Vice President of Outreach for the College of Engineering and Science Student Advisory Board, an ambassador for the Calhoun Honors College, a past facilitator for IMPACT (a summer social action program for incoming students), and an alumna of the ACC Leadership Conference. Finally, I have also received the Robert B. (’70) and Susan B. Hambright Annual Leadership Program in Engineering Award, the WISE Smith scholarship, the S.W. Shalaby Outstanding Sophomore in Bioengineering award, and the CU Out-of-State Scholarship.

Honors Programs+STEM Majors=Goldwater Scholars

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts on the value of Goldwater scholarships for undergraduates.  Future posts will include profiles of honors students from many universities, all of whom earned Goldwater scholarships in 2014.

Our interest in Goldwater scholars “stems,” so to speak, from the conviction that public university honors students who win the awards affirm that their typically large institutions can nevertheless provide excellent, individualized instruction and research opportunities for undergraduates, while serving the national need for outstanding STEM graduates.

Goldwater scholars earn a $7,500 scholarship to help them complete their undergraduate education.  The Goldwater award is undoubtedly the most prestigious undergraduate award.  Public university students earned more than half of the 281 awards in 2014.  Many Goldwater Scholars go on to earn Rhodes, Marshall, Gates Cambridge, Churchill, or Truman awards when they graduate.  Those and others also compete strongly for National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research fellowships to further their studies for advanced degrees.

Our view that public honors colleges and programs enjoy a significant relationship with Goldwater achievement is based on our analysis of Goldwater winners who attend one of the public universities we have reviewed, or will review in a new book to be published later this year.

A total of 90 students from these universities won Goldwater scholarships in 2014, and 71 of those students (79%) were in honors colleges or programs.  What is remarkable about this is that some STEM students, especially those in engineering, might be tempted to shy away from honors programs because the basic requirements of their majors are so rigorous to begin with.  But, increasingly, honors colleges and programs are emphasizing undergraduate research and mentoring that can give honors students more access to top researchers.

Notably, scholars from nineteen universities with multiple winners were all honors students: Alabama, ASU, Clemson, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa State, LSU, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, South Carolina, U at Buffalo, and Vermont.  Delaware, NC State, and Oklahoma each had two winners, with three total apiece.



Goldwater Scholars 2014: Iowa State, Purdue, UW Madison Lead Banner Year for Public Universities

Each year, we provide an update of Goldwater scholarships won by public university students, and 2014 was a banner year: 149 of the 283 scholarships awarded this year went to outstanding scholars from 84 public universities.

We provide this update because Goldwater scholars are all still undergraduates, and their selection is an indication of the undergraduate research opportunities at their universities.

Iowa State, Purdue, and UW Madison led all public institutions with four Goldwater scholars each.  Another sixteen public universities had three scholars: Arizona State, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts Amherst, Montana State, New Hampshire, NC State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Rutgers, South Florida, Western Kentucky, and West Virginia.  Since 2008, Western Kentucky students have won 18 Goldwater scholarships.

“The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,166 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. One hundred seventy-two of the Scholars are men, 111 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their degree objective. Twenty-two Scholars are mathematics majors, 191 are science and related majors, 63 are majoring in engineering, and 7 are computer science majors. Many of the Scholars have dual majors in a variety of mathematics, science, engineering, and computer disciplines.

“The one and two year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

“Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 117 Marshall Awards, 112 Churchill Scholarships, and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.”

UGA Center Is Incubator for Excellence in Undergraduate Research

The track record of the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) at the University of Georgia makes the center a model of “high-impact” practices that allow students of exceptional promise to engage in faculty-mentored research almost from the day they arrive at the Athens campus. 

Founded in the late 1990s, CURO allows undergraduates, including non-honors students, to

  1. “create a self-selected research career, allowing them to earn credit hours which can count towards degree program completion.
  2. “gain access to presenting (Symposium); funding (Summer Fellowships) and publishing (JURO, the Journal of Undergraduate Research) opportunities.
  3. “form a mentoring relationship focused on conducting research and professional development.
  4. “develop a deeper understanding of their chosen field by working closely with a research faculty mentor.”

As evidence of the center’s success, UGA can point to the involvement of all of the university’s Goldwater scholarship winners in CURO since the center’s inception, and to the fact that CURO has “figured prominently in the programs of study” for 5 Rhodes Scholars,  5 Gates Cambridge Scholars, 4 Marshall Scholars, 3 Mitchell Scholars, 5 Truman Scholars, 5 Udall Scholars, and Fulbright Student Scholars.

We believe that the Goldwater awards are a strong indication of the level of undergraduate support and mentoring at a given institution, and UGA and CURO offer two special programs to augment the already impressive features of the center:

Summer Fellowship Program–In this extremely intensive program, students submit research proposals for 30 fellowships each summer.  If selected, students spend 320-400 hours over the summer working closely with one or more faculty mentors on the research project that the student has self-selected.  The summer fellowship program has “led directly” to 4 Goldwater  and 2 Udall Scholarships.

CURO Honors Scholarship Program–Honors students in their very first semester at UGA may begin their participation in this program, which focuses on developing the writing, presentation, and other professional skills necessary to clarify and develop their research, and to make it as persuasive as possible.  To date, 7 honors scholars have gone on to win Goldwater scholarships.

Please go to this link for more information on CURO eligibility.

Honors College, Honors Program? Prestigious Scholarships, By Category

Of the fifty public universities in our survey, 19 have honors colleges (38%), and 31 have honors programs (62%). Below is comparison showing the number of prestigious undergraduate and graduate scholarships awarded, by category.

For purposes of the comparison, we are using the whole history of Rhodes scholarships; Gates and Marshall scholarships since 2001–2011; Churchill Scholarships since 1963; and all Truman Scholars since 1977. Fulbright scholarships are not included in the comparison because those totals have been adjusted for the size of the undergraduate population and raw numbers would be misleading in this comparison. They will be considered in the final review of programs and colleges.

We considered looking only at awards during the last ten years or so, but decided on a combined approach, using all Rhodes awards, for example, because of their prominence in the public mind and because they are the most difficult to earn, given the small number (32 this year) that are awarded to U.S. students. However, we are only counting more recent Marshall awards, as noted above. Postgraduate awards for UC campuses have been adjusted to take into account the dates on which they commenced operations.

The figures reveal that universities with honors programs have a higher proportion of prestigious scholarship winners than do universities with honors colleges, although the latter come close to proportional equality in the category of undergraduate scholarships. One possible explanation for the greater proportion coming from honors programs is that honors colleges are typically a more recent development in honors education; in some cases, the universities of which they are now a part did not have an existing pattern of receiving a large number of prestigious scholarships before the inception of the honors colleges.

On the other hand, the Goldwater Scholarships (1989) and the Udall Scholarships (1996), both for undergraduate research, are relatively recent additions that have given the newer honors colleges an opportunity to prove their value by over-performing in Udall Scholarships and holding their own in Goldwater Scholarships.

Here are the figures, bearing in mind that Honors Colleges are 38% of our Fifty, and Honors Programs are 62% of the Fifty:

Honors Colleges, Udall Scholarships, 44.1% of the total.
Honors Programs, Udall Scholarships, 55.9% of the total.

Honors Colleges, Goldwater Scholarships, 35.2% of the total.
Honors Programs, Goldwater Scholarships, 64.8% of the total.

Honors Colleges, Postgraduate Scholarships, 31.8% of the total.
Honors Programs, Postgraduate Scholarships, 68.2% of the total.