Four undergraduate researchers from Northwestern University have been awarded the 2022 Barry Goldwater Scholarship, an honor that supports students who intend to pursue careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.
As Goldwater Scholars, Carina Biar, Thomas Douglas, Sarah Sobol and Anthony Tam represent the scientific talent essential to ensuring the U.S. maintains its global competitiveness and security, according to the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs.
A total of 417 Goldwater Scholars were chosen this year on the basis of academic merit from a pool of more than 1,200 natural science, engineering and mathematics students nominated by the institutional representatives of 433 colleges and universities nationwide.
At Northwestern, the news is noteworthy since each university is allowed to put forth no more than four students each year for the national competition.
“It is a great honor to have all four of our nominees named Goldwater Scholars this year,” said LaTanya Veronica Williams, associate director for STEM in the Office of Fellowships. “As the Goldwater campus representative, I worked with each nominee intensively and assisted them in shaping their applications. Each demonstrates the spirit of excellence in academics and research found among all Northwestern students.”
Carina Biar’s family helped put her on her current academic path. Her older brother, a budding computer scientist, encouraged her to take a course on the topic in elementary school. And then she witnessed her grandparents’ suffering from Parkinson’s disease, which fueled her desire to study the brain. As a Northwestern student, she works in the lab of Gemma Carvill, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, researching epilepsy.
“I’m extremely grateful for the mentors who encouraged me to treat the Goldwater application as an opportunity to reflect,” she said. “I’ll be pursuing graduate school soon where I hope to continue studying neuroscience and genomics.”
Thomas Douglas found his place in science as a seventh-grade student at Whitney Young High School in Chicago. Physics came easily to him, and his passion was ignited as he discovered the world around him could be explained through physics principles which, in turn, helped him better grasp the mechanisms of his second passion: playing guitar. At Northwestern he joined the lab of Matthew Grayson, professor of electrical and computer engineering at McCormick. He will be performing research in qubit measurement and characterization at Fermilab this summer as an intern in the Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center.
“The Goldwater application process has made me appreciate the support of my research mentors and advising which facilitate my progress,” he said. “I hope to use this award to continue my research in quantum technologies and find ways to leverage advancements to improve the lives of others.”
Growing up, Sarah Sobol had a gift for dance, theater and choir. She first displayed an affinity for math as an elementary school student in advanced math classes, solving algebraic equations with chess pieces. She came to Northwestern as a Murphy Scholar in the McCormick School of Engineering, tackling projects to clean up the Chicago River and assist stroke patients with mobility. In 2020 she joined the lab of Michael Jewett, professor of chemical and biological engineering at McCormick, where she investigates glycosylation, an important mechanism of secondary protein processing within cells.
“Going through the Goldwater process has helped to confirm my passion for research,” she said. “I hope to continue pursuing research in synthetic biology to help make an impact on the world around me.”
As an elementary school student, Anthony Tam loved to play with Legos and put small things together, which naturally led him to his love for the molecular world. In high school, he participated in the U.S. Chemistry Olympiad and the Science Olympiad. He entered Northwestern as a QuestBridge scholar and, as a first-generation student, joined the Integrated Science Program. He works in the lab of Karl Scheidt, professor of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, where he investigates telomerase in cancer.
“I’m humbled to be awarded the Goldwater Scholarship,” he said. “With this funding, I’ll be able to finish my undergraduate career with no financial burden. And this opens the doors to future graduate programs, for which I’m immensely grateful.”
The scholarship program honors the late Senator Barry Goldwater and is considered the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.
Learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship by contacting Northwestern’s Office of Fellowships.