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3 recognized by Goldwater program

WKU students (from left) Brittany Morgan and Sarah Schrader have been awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarships; Clarice Esch received an honorable mention in the national program. (WKU photos by Clinton Lewis)

Three WKU students have been recognized by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Since 2007, more students from WKU have been recognized by the Goldwater program than from any other college or university in Kentucky.

Brittany Morgan of Glasgow, a junior in the WKU Honors College, and Sarah Schrader of Bowling Green, a student in the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, have been awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarships. Clarice Esch of Somerset, also a student in the Gatton Academy, received an honorable mention in the highly competitive, national program.

“These awards show the emphasis we place on applied, practical research at the undergraduate level, from the Gatton Academy through our Honors College,” WKU President Gary Ransdell said. “The experience these students gain through research activity and interaction with faculty mentors will serve them well as they continue their academic careers and graduate to make a positive impact on the quality of life in our region.”

This success grows out of the efforts of both individual research mentors and WKU’s Goldwater faculty representative Kevin Williams. Dr. Williams, associate professor of chemistry and former Goldwater Scholarship recipient, took on the role of faculty representative in 2006. Additionally, the Gatton Academy, the Honors College and the Office of Scholar Development work to promote research endeavors and preparation for scholarship competitions.

Brittany Morgan has been conducting biochemistry research with WKU chemistry faculty member Kevin Williams. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

Brittany Morgan, the daughter of Sue and Freddy Morgan, is studying biochemistry and hopes to earn a Ph.D. in the field. She plans to conduct research in molecular toxicology and teach at the university level. In Dr. Williams’ lab at WKU, Morgan is researching toxic and carcinogenic pollutants found in Kentucky’s air quality report. She has presented her research at regional and national meetings.

Upon hearing the news about her scholarship, Morgan was grateful to the Department of Chemistry at WKU and all of her friends and family for their support. She was also thankful to her mentor, Dr. Williams, for his dedication.

“He has made such a difference in my life,” she said. “He has opened up many opportunities and provided me with constant encouragement.”

Dr. Williams was pleased when he heard the news about Morgan’s Goldwater Scholarship. “Brittany’s selection as a Goldwater Scholar is a recognition of her excellence both in the classroom and in the laboratory.  She has been helping me to start a new area of research in my lab focusing on models of the biological activation of halogenated hydrocarbons, which are common pollutants,” he said.

Sarah Schrader has been conducting research with WKU biology faculty member Rodney King. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

Sarah Schrader, the daughter of Michelle and Steven Schrader, said the process of applying for and receiving the Goldwater Scholarship has solidified her desire to pursue a career in research. In the lab with Dr. Rodney King, associate professor of biology, she has been discovering a new virus that can only infect bacterial cells and is characterizing it based on its DNA and physical properties.

Schrader plans to pursue a Ph.D. in molecular biology or genetics and to become a research scientist in genetics. She attributes much of her success to the Gatton Academy for the many opportunities that the program offers as well as the Office of Scholar Development for helping to refine her Goldwater Scholarship Application.

“I would also like to thank my research mentor, Dr. King, for the immense amount of support and encouragement he has provided me throughout my time working in his lab,” she said.

Dr. King said he was excited to learn that Sarah had won a Goldwater scholarship. “Sarah is one of the most academically gifted students I have encountered in my career,” he said. “She has an insatiable appetite for learning and a remarkable work ethic. She is self motivated and tremendously disciplined. It’s been a privilege to watch Sarah’s potential for scientific research blossom during her time at WKU.  I’m very happy for her, and I’m very pleased that she has received such prestigious national recognition.”

Clarice Esch has been conducting research with Dr. Martin Stone, Leichhardt Professor of Horticulture. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

Clarice Esch, the daughter of Carol and Joseph Esch, has been researching methods to utilize lichens to reduce the need for nitrogen-based fertilizers. Like Morgan and Schrader, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. after she completes her undergraduate career.

According to Esch, her research has shaped her thinking on her future. “Through this project,” she said, “I discovered a passion for conducting research and intend to continue conducting research throughout the rest of my college career and beyond.”

Esch is grateful for the support of her mentor, Dr. Martin Stone, Leichhardt Professor of Horticulture. Dr. Stone said that Esch is the most promising student that he has worked with in his career as a researcher.

“Her work ethic, attention to detail, and ability to grasp the concepts of our joint research over the past two years have been impressive,” he said. “But beyond her intellectual abilities, she is unassuming and a genuinely nice person to know in both the classroom and in the greenhouse. Students like Clarice come along infrequently in the career of a faculty member and I am fortunate to have worked with her.”

The Goldwater Scholarship Program seeks to recognize excellence in the sciences and to encourage talented students to pursue research careers. Dr. Williams said that being honored by the Goldwater Scholarship Program “is a testimony not only to classroom performance but also to potential and passion for a research career.”

For WKU students, he said,  “the Goldwater awards are a validation of their potential as scientists”—potential that Dr. Williams believes others will continue to recognize as these students move toward graduate education and research careers.

The numbers support Dr. Williams’ assessment of the award. Colleges and universities must nominate students for consideration, and the program limits four-year institutions to four nominations each year. In 2011, 275 scholarships were awarded from nearly 1,100 nominees. Scholarship recipients receive $7,500 annually to cover undergraduate tuition, fees, books, or room and board.

About the Office of Scholar Development: The Office of Scholar Development is committed to helping students on all WKU campuses and in all majors and degree programs develop the vision, experience and skills to be independent, engaged scholars. OSD welcomes the opportunity to work with students interested in the Goldwater Scholarship Program or other similar opportunities. Call Audra Jennings at (270) 745-5043 to schedule an appointment with the Office of Scholar Development.

About the Honors College at WKU: WKU is home to the only Honors College in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Created in 2007, the Honors College at WKU provides an intimate, highly selective learning environment where college-age gifted and high-achieving students can develop the skills to prepare them for success in the nation’s top academic and career opportunities. Contact: Drew Mitchell, (270) 745-2081

About the Gatton Academy: The Gatton Academy offers a residential program for bright, highly motivated Kentucky high school students who have demonstrated interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Sixty students each year are admitted to the program through a competitive process. Instead of spending their junior and senior years in traditional high schools, students enroll in the Gatton Academy and live in a uniquely dedicated residence hall. The goals of the Gatton Academy are to enable Kentucky’s exceptional young scientists and mathematicians to learn in an environment which offers advanced educational opportunities and to prepare them for leadership roles in Kentucky.  At the end of two years, Gatton Academy students will have earned at least 60 college credit hours in addition to completing high school. Contact: Corey Alderdice, (270) 745-6565


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