Prestigious STEM scholarships awarded to Mississippi natives
OXFORD, Miss. – For the second year in a row, three University of Mississippi students have been awarded Goldwater Scholarships in a single year.
All native Mississippians, Christian Boudreaux, of Oxford; Noah Garrett, of Madison; and Alyssa Stoner, of Gulfport are the university’s 22nd, 23rd and 24th students to receive the coveted scholarships.
“As a cohort, these students are amazing,” said Vivian Ibrahim, director of the UM Office of National Scholarship Advisement. “They are scientists who care passionately about their research. They have all presented their work, so they can make complex scientific data accessible and understandable to the public.”
This year, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awarded 413 scholarships from a pool of 1,267 undergraduates nominated by 427 institutions.
The Goldwater is one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the United States. It identifies and supports exceptional sophomores and juniors who show promise of becoming the nation’s next generation of research leaders in these fields.
Boudreaux is a sophomore biology major with a specific interest in marine biology.
“For me, there is no other biome or scientific topic on Earth that holds as much intrigue as the ocean,” said Boudreaux, who is also a Stamps Scholar. “The wealth and diversity of life that exists there is endlessly fascinating to me and is something that I want to devote my life to better understanding.”
Turning his passion into action is a priority for Boudreaux.
“Barely a semester into his college career, Christian instigated and founded Aqua Culture, an environment conservation student organization,” said Tamar Goulet, professor of biology. “Christian’s conservation initiative, so early in his college career, speaks volumes about how capable Christian is and his huge potential.”
Aqua Culture works to protect and conserve marine and freshwater environments, while introducing Ole Miss students to waterways that surround the campus. Members participate in trash clean-ups, invasive species removal, water testing and a range of other service projects relating to protecting the aquatic environments throughout Mississippi.
Boudreaux is studying abroad in Ecuador as part of a comparative ecology and conservation program.
“It has been incredible, and we have learned a great deal about the ecology of Ecuador,” he said. “I am living with a host family, so my Spanish has improved a great deal. In a few weeks, we will be leaving for our independent study project period where I will either be working in the Amazon or the Galapagos conducting a project of my own creation.”
After graduation, Boudreaux plans to apply to graduate school to study marine biology with the eventual goal of working as a researcher and professor at a higher education institution.
Garrett is a junior studying chemistry and mathematics. He was initially drawn to these degrees for their applications in research.
“I find math and problem-solving intriguing, so it has been a very rewarding experience studying these subjects at Ole Miss,” Garrett said.
Garrett is conducting research under the advisement of Ryan Fortenberry, associate professor of chemistry, in his computational astrochemistry lab.
“We’ve had four Goldwater Scholars in a row from our research group, and I’m so excited that Noah was able to continue that for us,” Fortenberry said. “Noah is a wonderful student and a dedicated researcher. He is one of the most easygoing people that I’ve ever worked with.”
Garrett said the Goldwater will help him continue his research as well as set him up for future scholarships and National Science Foundation grants.
“Becoming a Goldwater scholar has been a goal of mine since I first joined my research lab, and by obtaining such a prestigious award it has become one of the proudest moments of my life for myself, my family and my mentors,” he said.
“It is an amazing feeling to win an award that will reflect my years of research experience and hard work in all of my classes, as well as my future aspirations towards research and science.”
Garrett plans to ultimately obtain a doctorate in theoretical chemistry while continuing to perform computational research and studying many aspects of computer science.
Stoner is a junior biology major who is interested in molecular biology.
“I love researching the processes behind life,” Stoner said. “I enjoy putting together the different pieces of life and thinking about them on a genetic level. I feel almost like I’m doing a puzzle.”
As a supplemental instruction leader for genetics, she mentors her peers in this historically challenging subject. In this role, she facilitates student learning by designing mini lesson plans, discussing topics covered in the class and creating practice problems, among other tasks.
“Alyssa also serves as a supplemental instruction mentor in addition to her SI leader responsibilities,” said Hannah Glass, program manager for supplemental instruction. “This involves her in our marketing efforts.
“She is very dedicated to the program as a whole and dedicated to the success of the students who are in her courses.”
Stoner is working on her thesis for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College under the advisement of Yongjian Qiu, assistant professor of biology. Following graduation, Stoner plans to pursue a doctorate in molecular biology and conduct research at an academic institution, biotechnology company or museum.
“The Goldwater will be a great addition to my resume when I apply to a Ph.D. program,” Stoner said. “I hope it shows that research is something that I want to dedicate my life to. I am committed to it, and I have the capability as well.”
For more information on the Goldwater Scholarships and how to apply for them, contact the Office of National Scholarship Advisement at firstname.lastname@example.org.