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Two students named Goldwater Scholars

Scholarship provides support for young researchers pursuing careers in natural sciences, math and engineering
Students Kate Carver and Melany Morales pose in an outdoor location
Kate Carver, left, and Melany Morales have earned the 2024 Barry Goldwater Scholarship, which provides support for young researchers pursuing careers in natural sciences, math and engineering. Photo by Stephen J. Lewis

Two undergraduate researchers from Northwestern University have earned the 2024 Barry Goldwater Scholarship, an honor that supports students who intend to pursue careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

As Goldwater Scholars, Kate Carver and Melany Morales represent the scientific talent essential to ensuring the U.S. maintains its global competitiveness and security, according to the Department of Defense (DOD) National Defense Education Programs. The DOD partners with the Goldwater Foundation on the scholarship program.

This year, a total of 438 Goldwater Scholars were chosen from 1,353 science, engineering and mathematics students nominated by 446 colleges and universities across the nation. Many of the scholars have published their research in leading professional journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences, and almost all plan to obtain a Ph.D.

“Goldwater winners use their experience as a pathway into top graduate schools and fellowships in the U.S. and abroad,” said LaTanya Veronica Williams, associate director for STEM in the Office of Fellowships and the campus representative for the program. “Kate and Melany are stellar students with high levels of resilience and maturity. I am sure that they will follow in the path of previous Goldwater winners and go forward to make great contributions to their fields of study.”

Melany Morales

Morales grew up in a bilingual household in Caracas, Venezuela, and often spent time in her mom’s elementary school classroom, watching how the students learned foundational skills. These experiences sparked Morales’ interest in developmental psychology, especially in language and how social interactions influence learning during development.

Now, Morales, a third-year neuroscience and psychology major, works in three labs, including Northwestern’s Infant and Child Development Center and the Language, Education and Reading Neuroscience (LEARN) lab, where she is working on her honors thesis, as well as Northeastern University’s PINE Lab.

Looking ahead, she hopes to continue to research how early childhood experiences and neuroplasticity shape emerging language and social-emotional skills. 

“This scholarship signifies not only personal achievement, but also the supportive community that has propelled me forward,” Morales said. “I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities it presents and the relationships it has fostered.”

Kate Carver

Carver learned the power of genomic medicine at a young age. Soon after her younger sister, Ella, was born, her family realized that Ella had a developmental delay, but doctors were unable to pinpoint what caused it.

Only when the family was able to have a special genetic sequencing done did they learn that variants on a gene important for neural development were responsible for Ella’s developmental delay. The experience led Carver to pursue a path to help genetics empower other families, too.

For the past two years, Carver, a third-year neuroscience major with a data science minor, has worked with the Perera Lab at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. There, she studies how patients’ genetics can be used to predict how they will respond to drugs, with the goal of improving treatments and patient outcomes.

“What keeps me going is knowing that there's a little bit of magic in the work we're doing, that it has a significant impact on families downstream, on patients like Ella,” Carver said.

Learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship and other opportunities by contacting Northwestern’s Office of Fellowships.