Students honored with Goldwater scholarship

For the fourth year in a row, the foundation behind the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship recognized all of Pitt’s student nominees.

Three Pitt juniors — Patrick Asinger, Natalie Dall and Charles Hansen — received the scholarship, which covers costs for books, tuition and room and board, and Ethan Garcia-Baker, also a junior, received an honorable mention.

According to a release, universities can nominate up to four students for the award, and this is the fourth consecutive year all Pitt nominees received some kind of recognition. Before applying to the national competition, Pitt students applied for a nomination at Pitt’s Honors College’s Office of National Scholarships.

The scholarship was started in 1986 to support sophomores or juniors in the path to careers in engineering, mathematics and natural sciences. The winners get assistance with school expenses up to $7,500 per year for the rest of their time at Pitt.

The U.S. Congress started the scholarship in honor of former Sen. Barry Goldwater, who served in the Senate for 30 years and as a soldier and statesmen for 56 years.

Peggy Goldwater Clay, chair of the board of trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, announced in a release that the foundation awarded 252 scholarships from a pool of 1,150 students. The students represented 415 colleges across the country.

Of the winners, 144 are men and 108 are women. Although many students double major, the majority of recipients majored in science or related fields or focused on mathematics, engineering and computer science.

University Honors College Dean Edward Striker said in a release the school’s successful “track record” shows the quality of Pitt students’ research and work in science and engineering fields.

“Our Goldwater Scholars will use their scholarships to further hone their skills as researchers in the chemical engineering and molecular biology fields. They all have admirable aspirations to use those skills for the betterment of society, and we applaud and support their noble pursuits,” Striker said.

Asinger said in order to apply for the scholarship, he had to write several essays and propose a research project that the foundation expects him and other winners to pursue in the fall. His proposal focused on creating a solid structure with a hollow center that would enhance carbon dioxide capture and convert methanyl to a liquid fuel.

Two of the honorees — Asinger and Hansen — have focused their efforts on research in the chemical engineering department. Asinger wants to conduct his research at Pitt and focus, in the future, on improving renewable energy conversion to more efficiently convert carbon dioxide gas into fuel, while Hansen wants to focus on clean energy production and energy storage.

Charles Hansen Photo courtesy of Pitt

Dall, a molecular biology major, would like to explore human developmental disorders and focus on evolutionary biology.

Baker, a neuroscience and history and philosophy of science major, plans to find new ways to diagnose mental disorders with a focus on human genomics technology and precision medicine.

Patrick Asinger Photo courtesy of Pitt

Dall, who worked on her application from September to January, said the application process and the reputation of the award have helped her prepare for graduate school.

“It prepares you to think about your career and think about where you see yourself going after Pitt and after you graduate as an undergraduate,” Dall said.

Natalie Dall Photo courtesy of Pitt

Asinger said the award will not change his plans for senior year but has encouraged him to consider academia as a career possibility and reinforced his confidence in his chosen field.

“The purpose is to reward students with the potential for a career in research, and this strong committee also believes I have strong potential,” Asinger said. “That’s really encouraging. It’s a good solidification of my beliefs in myself.”

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