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4 WKU students recognized by Goldwater scholarship program

Four WKU students nominated for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program have been honored by the premier award for undergraduates pursuing careers in science, mathematics or engineering. From left: Andrew Brown and Dimitri Leggas were named Goldwater Scholar while Audrey Brown and Ben Guthrie received honorable mentions.

Four WKU students nominated for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program have been honored by the premier award for undergraduates pursuing careers in science, mathematics or engineering. From left: Andrew Brown and Dimitri Leggas were named Goldwater Scholar while Audrey Brown and Ben Guthrie received honorable mentions.

For the second straight year, all four WKU students nominated for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program have been honored by the premier award for undergraduates pursuing careers in science, mathematics or engineering.

Andrew Brown of Central City and Dimitri Leggas of Lexington were named Goldwater Scholars. They are the only students from a Kentucky institution to receive Goldwater scholarships this year.

Audrey Brown and Ben Guthrie, both from Bowling Green, received honorable mentions.

WKU President Gary Ransdell said he is especially proud that all four nominees—the most allowed—were once again recognized.

“Our students continue to do extremely well as they compete for the top national scholarships such as the Goldwater,” Dr. Ransdell said. “This is a great opportunity for them and validates the academic strength WKU provides, especially in the science curriculum. Their success shows that engaging students in research from the onset prepares them to be successful throughout their educational and professional careers.”

Andrew Brown

Andrew Brown

Andrew Brown, the son of Kevin and Paula Brown, is studying physics and mathematics as a WKU sophomore and Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science student. He plans to pursue a PhD in plasma physics and conduct research in magnetic confinement fusion and teach at the university level.

Brown has conducted research with Dr. Keith Andrew, WKU professor of Physics. He also completed a summer research internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

His mentor, Dr. Xianzhu Tang, Plasma Physics team leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said Brown “is a wonderful student who has a talent for theoretical physics. Andrew’s analytical and computational research on magnetic perturbation of open field lines shed lights on a potentially practical solution to a major challenge in making controlled fusion energy work.”

Dimitri Leggas

Dimitri Leggas

Dimitri Leggas, the son of Mark Leggas and Suzanne Vanderwater, studies mathematics as a WKU sophomore and Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science student. He aims to earn a PhD in mathematics and pursue a career as a university professor, leading research in applied mathematics.

Among his many research experiences, Leggas has conducted research with Dr. Jeremy Maddox, WKU assistant professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Claus Ernst, WKU distinguished professor of Mathematics.

“It’s a lot of fun working with Dimitri,” said Dr. Maddox, one of Leggas’ mentors. “He is bright, talented and hard-working. I am very pleased his achievements have been recognized through the Goldwater Scholarship. I expect that Dimitri’s future endeavors, wherever they take him, will continue to make us proud.”

Audrey Brown

Audrey Brown

Audrey Brown, the daughter of James and Leeann Brown, studies biology and chemistry as a junior in the Honors College at WKU. She will pursue a PhD in neuroendocrinology and a career as a university professor, researching the mechanisms of endocrine response to external stimuli.

Brown has conducted research with Dr. Noah Ashley, WKU assistant professor of Biology. She also completed research at the University of Cincinnati during the summer of 2014 through the NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program and will spend the summer of 2015 participating in the DAAD RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) Program in Berlin.

“Audrey is an extraordinary student and is highly motivated,” said her mentor, Dr. Ashley. “She has a great mind for science and demonstrates a passion for animal physiology. I have truly enjoyed working with her and seeing her accomplish so much.”

Ben Guthrie

Ben Guthrie

Ben Guthrie, the son of Nicole and Chris Guthrie, studies physics as a WKU sophomore and Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science student. He aspires to earn a PhD in physics and become a university professor, conducting research on particle physics.

Guthrie conducts research with Dr. Phillip Womble, WKU professor of Physics. He is working to design a micro-nuclear battery and has created computer simulations for a small battery with a potential life of 20 years.

“Ben has learned through this work to be a 21st Century scientist since his research was interdisciplinary and used simulation techniques to design the device. Ben’s motivation and drive will allow him to reach any goal that he desires,” Guthrie’s mentor, Dr. Womble, said.

“This year we had an outstanding group of students who applied for this scholarship,” said Dr. Kevin Williams, Chemistry Professor and WKU’s Faculty Representative for the Goldwater Scholarship Program.  “We are only able to nominate four students a year, and we are excited to learn once again that all of our nominees have been recognized.”

Dr. Williams said that 18 of 20 WKU student nominees have been recognized in the past five years, “which is a truly amazing record since generally fewer than half of the nominees nationwide are recognized as scholars or honorable mentions.  These awards are the result of hard work from both the students and the faculty who have mentored them in their research activities.”

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1986 to recognize the former senator from Arizona, the Goldwater Scholarship program identifies and honors university sophomores and juniors who excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) research. To support future career researchers, winners receive $7,500 annually to apply toward undergraduate tuition, room and board, fees and books.

All of the students credited WKU’s Office of Scholar Development with assisting in the application process.

“OSD helped me realize what was possible with scholarships and gave me the confidence to apply,” Guthrie said. “Additionally, the hours I spent with Dr. Audra Jennings revising my application was a tremendous help.”

About the Office of Scholar Development: The Office of Scholar Development is committed to helping WKU students 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 nationally competitive scholarships. Contact: Dr. Audra Jennings, (270) 745-5043.

About The Gatton Academy: Established in 2007, The Gatton Academy is Kentucky’s first residential high school for gifted and talented junior and seniors. The Gatton Academy’s students enroll as juniors and are full-time WKU students pursuing their interests in advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematical careers. The Gatton Academy has been named the number one public high school in the United States by The Daily Beast for three consecutive years – 2012, 2013 and 2014. Contact: Zack Ryle, (270) 745-2971.

Contact: Office of Scholar Development, (270) 745-5043

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