May 6, 2011
By Brooke Bunce
Ohio University sophomore Keith Hawkins won the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, and two other students, Ethan Cottrill and Sarah Wyss, received honorable mention status.
The only other Ohio public institution with a Goldwater recipient was Ohio State University. Miami University had one honorable mention.
Named in honor of U.S. Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, the scholarship was established in 1986 by Congress to recognize excellence in students preparing for careers in science, math and engineering. Out of 1,095 applicants, only 275 scholarships were awarded this year.
The criteria for applicants include outstanding academic achievement, research experience and a clear articulation of their career goals. Recipients can receive up to $7,500 per year toward academic costs, which applies for two years for sophomores and one year for juniors.
"The Goldwater Scholarship is the most prestigious undergraduate award available to students in math, science, engineering, and technology who are pursuing careers in research, and this is the 11th year in a row we have had a student receive a Goldwater Scholarship," said Brandon Bute, director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards.
Hawkins is a 20-year-old sophomore in the Honors Tutorial College who is majoring in astrophysics. He also is pursuing a minor in math and a certificate in African Studies. Last fall, Hawkins traveled to Ghana to teach math and science.
He is currently working on a project with Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Markus Boettcher involving blazar variability and continuing research on a project involving the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Hawkins recently received a summer position at the California Institute of Technology, where he will be researching Earth-like planets that may be orbiting stars.
"When I received the Goldwater, my initial reaction was surprise and excitement. I didn't expect that I would be selected for such an honor as the Goldwater scholarship," Hawkins said.
Hawkins has a significant research background, which started in high school when one of his projects qualified him for the State Science Fair. That is where he met Boettcher, who is now his mentor. Hawkins career goal is to earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics with an emphasis on galaxy group evolution.
During graduate school he hopes to work on a thesis project related to the evolution of the intracluster medium in compact groups of galaxies. He also plans to actively promote science in local high schools and middle schools by mentoring their students.
"The prestige of the scholarship will carry significant weight as I apply to graduate school at some of the top institutions in the U.S. for astrophysics," Hawkins said. "Through my tutorial I have learned so much about physics and astronomy that I use every day when I try and complete a research project."
In addition, Hawkins is co-president of Students Teaching About Racism in Society, secretary of the Social Justice Coalition, a member of the Society of Physics Students and tutors other students in math, physics and astronomy.
Cottrill is a sophomore Manasseh Cutler Scholar majoring in chemistry in the Honors Tutorial College. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry with a focus on photochemistry. His long-term goal is to conduct research and teach at a university.
Wyss, a sophomore in the Honors Tutorial College, is majoring in biological sciences. She will pursue a Ph.D. in molecular biology and conduct research in biosynthetic and genetic engineering. She plans to teach at the university level as well. Her current area of interest is the genetic engineering of microbes for paratransgenic systems or for biosynthesis of medically relevant compounds.
Each university can nominate four students for the award. A Goldwater scholarship screening committee consisting of Ohio University faculty directed candidate selection and application assistance.
The Goldwater Scholarship Screening Committee was chaired by Scott Moody (Biological Sciences). Other staff serving on the committee included Jeff Rack (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Butch Hill (Cutler Scholars and Electrical Engineering), Sarah Wyatt (Environmental and Plant Biology), Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch (Geological Sciences), Roxanne Male-Brune (Graduate College) and Natalie Kruse (Voinovich School).