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Northwestern Sweeps Congressional Scholarship Awards

Students honored by Goldwater, Truman and Udall scholarship foundations

  • Mathematician and scientist Kimberly Clinch wins Goldwater
  • Chemist Vince Rinaolo, inspired by nature, named Goldwater winner
  • Varsity cross-country runner Renee Wellman wins Udall for sustainability efforts
  • Qiddist Hammerly awarded Truman for work on juvenile justice, racial disparities

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University swept the elite congressional scholarship awards in 2015, with students receiving national recognition by the Goldwater, Truman and Udall scholarship foundations.

The three nomination-only awards highlight undergraduates who excel academically and show leadership in STEM research, public service and environmentalism. Northwestern last had winners for all three scholarships at the same time during the 2005-06 academic year.

Sophomores Kimberly Clinch (Woodbury, Minn.) and Vince Rinaolo (Lake Forest, Ill.)  received the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, which awards up to $7,500 to college students who intend to pursue research careers in science, math and engineering. Clinch’s interests include cosmology, neuroscience and sustainability. Rinaolo is working to make organic chemistry research methods more effective and efficient by mimicking nature with artificial enzymes.

Junior Renee Wellman (Carmel, Ind.) won the Udall Scholarship (up to $5,000), which recognizes students committed to environment-related careers or Native American and Alaska Natives who intend to work in native health care or tribal public policy. Wellman, a varsity cross-country runner at Northwestern, hopes to be an urban planner or non-profit administrator to influence food policy and community design.

Junior Qiddist Miriam Hammerly (Portland, Ore.) received the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a $30,000 award that supports graduate education for outstanding students who plan to pursue careers in public service. Hammerly plans to study racial disparities in education and youth incarceration.

For more details on the scholarship winners:

Kimberly Clinch: Specializing in both integrated science and mathematics, Clinch seeks answers to fundamental questions about how things began, exist and persist. She wants to explore deep space, specifically, the underappreciated moon, which she believes can yield critical data about other planetary bodies. Before that can happen however, “we must find a way to fuel human work that does not depend on the earth,” said Clinch.

As a self-described “cosmophile devoted to practicing sustainability,” Clinch was motivated to research solar cells because they “may prove critical to cleaning up the planet even as they allow us to travel abroad,” she said. She worked as lead engineer in a study of dye-sensitized solar cells, a promising technology that captures solar energy through a dye mounted onto a porous foam semiconductor. 

“Cosmology specifically promises results wondrous in themselves, even as they relate to philosophy,” she wrote in her Goldwater application. “My life sciences interests are tied to principles of sustainability.”

Clinch plans to study alternative energy medicine and nutrition and “share the results with those who seek more wholesome lifestyles.” She also will research computational neuroscience, which she said “brings together the multiple arenas that engage me: math, physics, philosophy and life.”

Though driven to contribute to scientific research and knowledge, it would be even more meaningful “to think that I might help the next Einstein envision herself pursuing a career in science,” she said.

Vince Rinaolo: Ever since he set up a chemistry lab in his parent’s Lake Forest garage during high school, Vince Rinaolo knew he’d be a research chemist. Late at night, Rinaolo would play classical music and explore mysterious compounds, pushing deeper into reactions he didn’t dare unleash.

Now working in a research lab at Northwestern -- and still experimenting with strange substances -- Rinaolo wants to utilize efficient and low waste chemical reactions to help drive the large scale production of crucial pharmaceutical drugs.

Current research methods use pathways that are expensive, dangerous and inefficient, said Rinaolo, a sophomore.  “Typically, less than 1 percent of the starting material is converted into the target compound, while hundreds of liters of toxic waste and solvent -- difficult to dispose of -- are produced along the way,” he said.  Rinaolo hopes to make the process more effective and waste conscious by “mimicking nature with artificial enzymes and using reactions with better atom efficiency.”

Renee Wellman:  As a runner, Wellman developed a different perspective of her Indiana hometown than many of her car-dependent peers. Though her town was considered running- and bike-friendly, she often had to cross highways and strip malls to reach the paths.

“Running showed me the extent to which a city’s physical and political infrastructure is necessary to support environmentally conscious lifestyle choices,” said Wellman, a member of Northwestern’s varsity cross-country team.

A junior in the School of Education and Social Policy, Wellman now wants to create initiatives that promote better access to healthful food, less fossil-fuel dependent transportation and better management of ecosystems and green spaces.

She has worked to change the college food culture by campaigning for “real food,” serving as co-president of Wild Roots, the campus vegetable garden, and launching a student-athlete led initiative to address sustainability issues among athletes, teams and facilities.

After organizing the athletics side of a campus-wide shoe drive, she gathered representatives from Northwestern’s varsity teams to discuss ways to reduce waste by reusing shower towels, turning off lights in the athletic facilities and promoting recycling at athletic competitions.

Wellman, who hopes to be an urban planner or nonprofit administrator, wants to use “placemaking,” or the planning of cities around community gathering places such as farmers markets and public gardens, to influence food policy and community design.

“These designs favor alternative modes of transportation, such as walking and biking and the development of urban green spaces,” she said.

Qiddist Miriam Hammerly: An activist, campus leader and self-described “advocate for racial, social, environmental and economic justice,” Hammerly plans to study racial disparities in education and youth incarceration. 

“I want to create a more equitable system of education and criminal justice for youth across America and drastically reduce the number of youth who end up in the juvenile justice system,” she said.

Already a veteran community organizer, with experience teaching and working in the juvenile justice system, Hammerly has spent the last three years as a teacher’s aide, working with first graders in an Evanston elementary school. 

She also conducts research, writes articles on social justice issues related to education policy and leads African-American social action and a capella groups. She is currently a Presidential Fellow with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, which recognizes national leaders with a strong interest in public policy.

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