The most prestigious national award for undergraduate STEM researchers, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, has been awarded to four Harvey Mudd College students: Tonatiuh Gonzalez ’22, Jacob Kelber ’23, Hanna Porter ’22 and Anna Soper ’22.
The 409 Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,256 natural science, engineering and mathematics students nominated by 438 academic institutions. All four of the HMC students who were nominated received a scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year.
2021 HMC Goldwater Scholars
Tonatiuh Gonzalez ’22, a math and computational biology major, is doing research with Eliot Bush, who studies microbial genome evolution. “Our research is about reconstructing the evolutionary history of bacteria and identifying events that may have given bacteria environmental or antibacterial resistance or increased virulence,” says Gonzalez, who intends to pursue either an M.D. or PhD in computational biology and conduct research in disease genomics. His career interests include cancer research and practicing medicine. In 2020, Gonzalez was named an HMC Outstanding Emerging Leader for demonstrating collaboration, integrity, respect and support.
Jacob Kelber ’23, a chemistry major, worked during summer 2020 with Katherine Van Heuvelen to develop new, environmentally friendly catalysts for important reactions. “The goal of my research was to computationally screen a catalyst for the detoxification of potentially carcinogenic industrial pollutants perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene,” says Kelber, who also worked with chemistry professors Hal Van Ryswyk (HMC) and Nathan C. Gianneschi (Northwestern). “I was able to successfully find an iron-based catalyst and model its reaction with PCE and TCE.” With a goal of teaching at the university level, Kelber intends to pursue a PhD in chemistry and continue research in chemical science. “I would like to focus this research on finding ways to capture carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and/or finding a sustainable method to deal with our plastic waste.”
Hanna Porter ’22, a chemistry major, is working in both Hal Van Ryswyk’s chemistry lab and Tom Donnelly’s physics research group. “I have been involved in research involving quantum dot size determination via pulsed-field gradient NMR in Professor Van Ryswyk’s lab and developing an RF-plasma reactor for gas-phase graphene synthesis in Professor Donnelly’s lab,” says Porter, who was awarded HMC’s Platt Prize for her academic accomplishments and contributions to the life of the College. This summer, she will investigate electron microscopy during a National Science Foundation research opportunity at Cornell University called PARADIM (Platform for the Accelerated Realization, Analysis, and Discovery of Interface Materials), which is dedicated to the discovery and fabrication of materials with unprecedented properties that do not exist in nature. Upon graduation, Porter plans to obtain a PhD in physical chemistry or materials science. She is interested in conducting materials science research to investigate energy storage solutions and novel renewable energy sources to combat climate change.
Anna Soper ’22, physics and math major and a member of Lori Bassman’s research team, is studying metal alloys and working on computationally simulating their compositions and structures. “My current research is in the field of computational materials science, where I am investigating the chemical and structural mechanisms by which the brittle sigma phase in a novel stainless steel substitute is destabilized by the addition of aluminum, producing a useful, ductile alloy,” Soper says. In collaboration with Bassman, physics professor Nicholas Breznay and Jonas Kaufman ’17, she has developed a model of the complex sigma phase that predicts the lattice sites that different atomic species preferentially occupy, allowing researchers to study local changes in bond lengths and charge distributions that may contribute to the destabilization of the sigma phase. This summer, Soper will do research in nonlinear photonics and optical computing at Caltech before applying to graduate school, where she’ll pursue a PhD in experimental atomic, molecular and optical physics.
The Goldwater Scholarships are the result of a partnership with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs and the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. 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. All Harvey Mudd sophomores and juniors are eligible to compete for the Goldwater Scholarship.