Undergraduate students earn Goldwater Scholarships

Sean Yoder
April 16, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Of the four students Penn State endorsed for a Goldwater Scholarship in 2017, two were awarded the honor and a third received an honorable mention.

The scholarship, named for statesman Barry Goldwater, is among the most competitive honors in the country for undergraduates in the sciences and mathematics fields. Each year, 300 students across the U.S. are awarded $7,500 through the scholarship program.

The Goldwater Foundation caps at four the number of students a university can endorse. Before students could apply directly to the Goldwater Foundation, they contended with a competitive pool of Penn State peers for endorsement, according to Caitlin Ting, interim director of the University Fellowships Office.

Both Taylor Baum and Rosalie Sowers secured their places as Goldwater Scholars, and Rory Bowens earned an honorable mention. All three are scholars in the Schreyer Honors College.

Sowers, of State College, is a junior double-majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and computer science. She received honorable mention from the Goldwater Foundation last year and also has been the recipient of the Evan Pugh Scholarship, the Homer Braddock Scholarship, and the Lockheed Martin Corporation Scholarship.

“I am extremely honored to have been awarded the Goldwater scholarship,” Sowers said. “It is gratifying to receive recognition for the hard work that I have put into my research over the past several years.”

Sowers said she would like to pursue a career in genomics. She said recent intersections between computer and life sciences have opened up new opportunities for studies of the human genome.

“Rosie’s research accomplishments alone are tremendous,” said Song Tan, Sowers’ research mentor and professor of biochemistry. “What is astounding is that she manages to lead a research project and to mentor others in our lab while also excelling in 22 credits of coursework a semester.”

“I hope to contribute to these research developments in order to better understand the genetic factors underlying many diseases,” Sowers said.

Baum, of Hollidaysburg, is a junior double-majoring in biology and electrical engineering. She also is the recipient of the Madden Honors Scholarship, the Doris N. McKinstry Scholarship, and the Sinha Family Trustee Scholarship.

Sean Brennan, professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, praised Baum’s work on intelligent wheelchair systems in the lab.

“She’s an exceptional, hard-working individual,” Brennan said. “Every time I think she’s reached the limit of what a student can do, she surprises me. She’s a wealth of capability. Her name has come up when talking to colleagues about ongoing research. In many cases, people are surprised at all her research activities and how young she is. She has made nearly every move she could have to become the best in the engineering field. She’s certainly going to be a leader in this area someday, on this trajectory she’s on.”

Baum said she’s learned resilience during her studies and research.

“While this award is an incredible milestone in my academic career, the path to it has been much more important,” Baum said. “It has taught me that what ‘they’ say is true. Resilience is an important trait for success, because it only comes with many, many, many failures.”

Baum said she would like to continue study at the intersection between neuroscience and electrical engineering.

“In other words, what can we learn about the brain through our understanding of electronics and vice versa?” she said. “Brain-control interfaces are just one example of the incredible possibilities that lie in this intersection; this technology has the potential to return independence and an ability to communicate to those with motor neuron diseases like ALS. Through improving upon current methods of interfacing the brain with technology, I hope to progress our understanding of the brain’s methods of information processing.”

Bowens, of Kennett Square, is a junior double-majoring in physics and astronomy and astrophysics, with a minor in mathematics. He also has received the President's Freshman Award, the Evan Pugh Scholar Senior Award, the Elsbach Scholarship, and the Kadtke Scholarship.

“I am very happy to have earned an honorable mention for the Goldwater Scholarship,” he said. “I know that I was competing with the best and brightest, so to come out near the top is awesome.”

He said that after graduation he would like to study instrumentation and have a hand in developing equipment for satellites and telescopes.

“I greatly enjoy astronomy,” he said. “I have always loved looking up at the night sky and seeing the stars. I also find that the mathematics and physics is quite interesting, and occasionally quite challenging.”

Barry Morris Goldwater was born in Arizona in 1909, and by age 13 was already displaying intellectual aptitude when he set up the first commercial radio transmitter in the state. He also was a talented student and athlete before his academic career was cut short by the death of his father. He then delved into the family business, Goldwater’s Department Store, and worked his way to the CEO of the company.

He entered the military during World War II, even after being turned away for his age and athletic injuries, and eventually retired as a major general in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. Goldwater stepped onto his political path in 1949, when he won a seat on the Phoenix City Council. He would later be elected as a senator for Arizona for five terms from 1953 to 1965 and 1969 to 1987. He died in 1998.

The first Goldwater Scholarships were awarded in 1989 through the Goldwater Foundation.

Those interested in applying for fellowships should visit the University Fellowships Office for more information.

The University Fellowships Office is part of Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at undergrad.psu.edu.

Last Updated April 17, 2018