A trio of Harvey Mudd students received honorable mentions for the 2014 Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious national award for undergraduate researchers in science, mathematics and engineering. Kaitlyn Dwelle ’15, Rowan Zellers ’16 and Shannon Wetzler ’16 were each nationally recognized for exemplary research efforts in STEM disciplines.
Shannon Wetzler ’16 is a joint major in biology and chemistry. She’s captain of the DUCK! Improv Team, a singer in the McAlister Church Choir and a mentor tutor for Homework Hotline, a free over-the-phone tutoring service. Wetzler worked with David Vosburg, associate professor of chemistry, using biomimicry to optimize a 20-step synthesis of an antifungal agent, ultimately simplifying the process down to a four-step green synthesis. “The research experience was amazing,” said Wetzler. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to think outside of the box and try to solve problems while researching.”
Wetzler hopes to pursue a PhD in biophysics or biochemistry, specifically working on making more accurate biosensors.
Fellow sophomore Rowan Zellers is a joint major in computer science and mathematics with an interest in machine learning—the study of how computers digest the patterns that underlie massive data sets. Zellers applied machine learning to a computational biology problem in order to see how transcription factors bind to DNA in fruit flies (Drosophila), with the hopes of better understanding embryonic cell development in Drosophila and, eventually, humans.
Zellers is currently studying abroad in Budapest, Hungary, with the Aquincum Institute of Technology program, organized by professors Ran Libeskind-Hadas, R. Michael Shanahan Professor of Computer Science, and Michael Orrison, Avery Professor of Mathematics. “This allows me to take courses that relate to machine learning, as well as some other fun ones,” said Zellers, adding that studying abroad also provides a unique opportunity to explore another culture and language.
Kaitlyn Dwelle ’15 is a chemistry major who developed new polymer membranes for gas separation. She conducted theoretical and computational work in the molecular diffusion laboratory under the supervision of Nancy Lape, associate professor of engineering, performing molecular dynamics simulations to model the diffusion of gas through different types of membranes.
“I’m constantly amazed at the amount of support Harvey Mudd gives its students for undergraduate research,” remarked Dwelle. “I’m happy to see my own work, as well as that of my peers, recognized on a national level.”
All college sophomores and juniors are eligible to compete for the scholarships. Each year, the College nominates up to four students for the Goldwater Scholarship Program. The Department Chairs Committee serves as the nominating body.
The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.