College students win Goldwaters, a UdallBy Julia Morse
Four students in the College heard some surprising news this spring when they learned they would be receiving scholarships for their academic achievements.
“I was totally shocked,” said Alison Nemirow, a College third-year who has been awarded a Morris K. Udall scholarship for environmental studies.
Nadine Levin, a second-year studying biology, with a specialization in immunology, said: “I had no idea I’d win. I really never considered myself to stand out because every candidate was so exceptional.” Levin and fellow College students Doran Bennett and Zachary Gates will receive Barry M. Goldwater scholarships, given to students who are pursuing careers in mathematics, science or engineering.
“It was certainly a wonderful surprise—you never expect to win,” said Bennett, a third-year who is concentrating in chemistry and mathematics.
While the students were surprised at their good fortune, their faculty mentors were not. Stephen Kent, Professor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Chemistry, said of third-year student Gates: “He is an incredibly rare young scientist with a great intellect and an inquisitive mind. I believe he has a very, very successful career ahead of him.”
Nemirow’s mentor, Ted Steck, Professor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and the College, said, “Alison is an exceptional, fine student, and I’m not at all surprised she was selected as a Udall Scholar.”
Steck, who is Chair of Environmental Studies in the New Collegiate Division, noted that Nemirow has specific career goals and is devoted to planning a career in the environmental fields. “She is the kind of person who really is going to change the world for the better,” Steck added.
A teacher of Levin’s, Bana Jabri, Associate Professor in Pathology, Medicine and Pediatrics, said that Levin constantly demonstrates a very inquisitive and analytical mind, dedication and desire in her academic work as a young scientist. “Nadine knows where she wants to go and what she wants to do,” Jabri said. “She is a wonderful example of a young person who takes initiative in her life and in her research. It’s so unusual to see that in someone her age. She’s a special young woman.”
Laurie Butler, Professor in Chemistry and the College, who is a faculty mentor to Bennett, said: “Doran is an intellectually gifted young man; I was very pleased he was recognized in this way.” As an example of Bennett’s talents, Butler noted that during his second year in the College, he took the Ph.D.-level quantum mechanics course instead of the undergraduate-level course on the same topic.
Bennett said the Goldwater application process forced him to really think about why he loves Chemistry instead of focusing on what he has accomplished. “It really made me focus on what it is I want to do with my life,” Bennett said.
When he first came to the College, Bennett said he had planned on being a philosophy major, but then he took inorganic chemistry and everything changed. “It just sort of happened, I stumbled upon it, and then I became a chemistry major,” he said.
Gates also noted that his plans changed when he altered his original choice of a pre-medical program. “Somewhere along the line, I got really fired up about chemistry.”
Gates, who said he also loves running and weight lifting, added that “Learning chemistry as a tool to better understand science as a whole is the way I like to look at what I’m doing now.”
Recently, Levin said she’s found herself “incredibly interested” in studying deadly pathogens, including the Ebola virus, from an evolutionary perspective, and that she hopes to delve further into tracking emerging diseases in third-world countries.
“Since I was very young, I’ve been really interested in science, reading medical mysteries growing up and thoroughly enjoying microbiology,” Levin said. “Then, once I came to the University, my eyes were opened to how far I could take this.”
For Nemirow, her love of the environment started at a very young age and is deeply rooted in her childhood growing up in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
“This has been a lifelong interest of mine,” Nemirow said, noting that her mother once practiced environmental law. “My parents are a really big inspiration for me. Their passion for the environment lit a fire in me at a very young age, and it’s just kept burning.”
The Morris K. Udall Undergraduate Scholarship Foundation, established in 1996, awards up to $5,000 in scholarship money to second- and third-year college students from around the country. This year, 80 students were named Udall Scholars out of the 445 who were nominated.
Udall Scholars, chosen for their commitment to the environment and leadership potential, typically pursue careers in environmental fields, including policy, science, urban planning, education, business, health, justice and economics.
In honor of U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, Congress established the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Created in 1986, these scholarships support third- and fourth-year college students who aspire to careers in science, mathematics and engineering.
Goldwater scholars receive up to $7,500 for college expenses, including tuition, fees, books, and room and board. This year, 323 students were selected from a pool of 1,081 students nominated by colleges nationwide.