Schreyer Scholar Sylvia Biscoveanu awarded Goldwater Scholarship

April 13, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Schreyer Honors College Scholar and physics major Andrea Sylvia Biscoveanu was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for the 2016-17 year 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 252 individuals for the 2016-17 year. Schreyer Scholar and junior physics major Grant Smith was 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 undergraduate mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Each institution may only nominate four students for the scholarship each year.

Biscoveanu, a junior from Yardley, is majoring in both physics and Spanish at Penn State. For the last two years, she has been involved in research as an undergraduate in professor Miguel Mostafa’s research group, assisting with the analysis of data taken with the Pierre Auger Observatory in the largest cosmic ray experiment in the world, to discover the origin of the most energetic particles in the universe. She began conducting research with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) Collaboration last summer in Melbourne, Australia, and will continue this work at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) during the summer of 2016.

“I am honored to be a Goldwater Scholar and it is so fulfilling to know that my hard work is being noticed,” said Biscoveanu, who was recognized with honorable mention status for the Goldwater Scholarship in 2015. “I have received so much encouragement, support and guidance, and I am fortunate to have had so many opportunities to do amazing things here at Penn State.”

“I have received so much encouragement, support and guidance and I am fortunate to have had so many opportunities to do amazing things here at Penn State.”

-- Sylvia Biscoveanu, 2016 Goldwater Scholar  

Honored for their impressive qualifications, Goldwater Scholars have been recognized by prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs with 86 Rhodes Scholarships, 125 Marshall Awards, 134 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.

“Sylvia has taken great advantage of the extensive opportunities for undergraduate research at Penn State and fully immersed herself in her chosen fields of physics and Spanish,” said Dean of the Schreyer Honors College Christian Brady. “The Goldwater Foundation award is the recognition of Sylvia’s accomplishments in the search for gravitational waves background, her dedication to her discipline and her continued pursuit of excellence. The many prestigious honors and awards won by our Scholars this year are evidence of the commitment of Penn State to foster and support undergraduate research activity.”

Several Schreyer Honors Scholars have distinguished themselves this past year with academic achievements including this Goldwater Scholarship for Biscoveanu, a Churchill Scholarship for Ramya Gurunathan (only the second such award to a Penn State student), David Stack receiving the distinction as a Junior Fellow of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a first for Penn State, as well as five National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships and three Fulbright Program awards.

"A tremendous student and an asset to the physics department and Eberly College of Science, Sylvia joined my research group as a freshman, the youngest undergraduate student I have ever invited for research experience, and has been carrying out research in ultra-high energy cosmic rays during the last two years,” said Miguel Mostafa, Penn State associate professor of physics and astronomy and astrophysics. “Her outstanding performance is a direct result of her hard work, dedication and intelligence. Sylvia has proven to be a creative thinker with an eye for details and a devotion to logic, which serves her well both in the sciences and outside them.”

Biscoveanu was awarded the Women in Science and Engineering Research (WISER) undergraduate fellowship from the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium in 2014. Last fall, she received the award for the top undergraduate presentation at the Mid-Atlantic Section of the American Physical Society (APS). Biscoveanu will present her studies in the cosmic rays category at the April 2016 APS meeting in Baltimore and her results will be featured as part of the community’s major news, showing the relevance of her research to the particle astrophysics community. She joined Mostafa at the annual meeting of the International Collaboration in Argentina in March to present her recent studies.

In addition to maintaining a perfect 4.0 cumulative grade point average in physics and Spanish and conducting research, Biscoveanu is pursuing minors in mathematics and violin/viola performance. She performs as the first violinist in a string quartet, was a founding member of Penn State’s Music Service Club and she participates in the Spanish Club.

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 undergraduate 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 7,600 scholarships.

“The Goldwater Scholarship is extremely competitive, and to be named a recipient or to receive an honorable mention is to be recognized for truly outstanding research accomplishments,” said Tanya Furman, interim director of the University Fellowships Office and associate vice president and associate dean for Undergraduate Education. “Penn State has a wealth of research opportunities available to undergraduates and we are proud to see our students achieving at such a high level. The Fellowships Office is excited to congratulate Sylvia and Grant on their accomplishments.”

To learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship or other fellowship opportunities, visit the University Fellowships Office website. The University Fellowships Office is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education.  

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars, including Gateway Scholars admitted after their first or second year of enrollment, total more than 1,900 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth campuses. They represent the top 2 percent of students at Penn State who excel academically and lead on campus.

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Pronunciation of Biscoveanu: BISS-Coh-Vuh-New

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Last Updated May 12, 2016