Goldwater Scholarship recipient pursuing lifelong love of science

May 08, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Schreyer Honors College Scholar and physics major Jacob Wisser was named a recipient of a Goldwater Scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. The premier award of its type in the fields of mathematics, science and engineering, scholarships were awarded to 260 individuals for the 2015-16 year. Schreyer Scholars Andrea Sylvia Biscoveanu and Ryan Creedon were named to the list of honorable mentions.

The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of more than 1,200 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.

Wisser, a junior from Phoenixville, is an undergraduate researcher in professor Nitin Samarth’s lab studying molecular beam epitaxial growth of thin films to study the thermoelectric effect and discover efficient ways to transfer heat into electrical energy. He plans to continue his education and obtain his doctorate in condensed matter physics or material science and perform research in an industry or academic setting.

“My family is very excited and I have received a lot of calls from relatives,” Wisser said. “I am excited, but I try to stay grounded. I want to thank my high school physics teacher, Mr. Jennings, for encouraging me to study physics. I knew I wanted to be in science because my mom would take me to science museums when I was a kid, but I wasn’t sure what branch of science I wanted to go into. Mr. Jennings, who is a Penn State alumnus, told me, ‘If you are going to try and understand the world, why wouldn’t you try and do it through physics?’”

Honored for their impressive qualifications, Goldwater Scholars have been recognized by prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs with 86 Rhodes Scholarships, 123 Marshall Awards, 123 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.

“As one of the top research universities in the world, Penn State has a strong commitment to nurturing undergraduate participation,” said Dean of the Schreyer Honors College Christian Brady. “Jake won the Goldwater Scholarship due to his significant academic accomplishments. He is yet another example of our Scholars not only achieving in their individual disciplines, but earning honors and recognition from prestigious organizations worldwide.”

Several Schreyer Honors Scholars have distinguished themselves this past year with academic achievements including this Goldwater Scholarship for Wisser, a Marshall Scholarship for Ryan Henrici, Christopher Rae’s selection as a Gates Cambridge Scholar and six Fulbright awards. Penn State undergraduates Stephanie Brown and Melissa Quinnan were two of only 15 U.S. students selected for an undergraduate research fellowship at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Wisser, Henrici, Rae, Brown and Quinnan are all pursuing degrees in Penn State's Eberly College of Science.

"The faculty and staff of the Eberly College of Science are rightly very proud of the achievements of all of our outstanding students," said Eberly College of Science Acting Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Richard Robinett. "We applaud their efforts in taking full advantage of the research and other co-curricular activities that our college has to offer all of our majors, including our best and brightest."

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The Scholarship Program, honoring Sen. Barry Goldwater who served the United States for more than five decades as a soldier and statesman, was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

Since the first scholarships were awarded in 1989, the Foundation has bestowed $48 million in scholarship funds through more than 7,000 scholarships.

“Winning a Goldwater or receiving an honorable mention are indications of the highest possible level of undergraduate research achievement,” remarked Ruth M. Mendum, the director of Penn State’s Fellowships Office. “One of the most significant benefits of a Penn State education is the diversity and rigor of the research opportunities open to our students. The fellowships office is thrilled to congratulate Jake, Sylvia and Ryan on their accomplishments.”

The University Fellowships Office welcomes inquiries from students interested in applying for a variety of scholarships. For more information, contact Ruth Mendum at 814-863-8199 or

Last Updated May 11, 2015