New Major: Earth & Environmental Science

A Living Laboratory


Ask many students why they’re at the University of Utah and they’ll tell you they want to make an impact on the world. Maybe it’s medicine, social work, or realizing the next best engineering feat. Maybe their impact lies in the arts, architecture or the humanities. Then there’s politics, management or public health . . . to name a few.

There are a growing number of students looking at climate change and the environment with an urgent sense of purpose and a belief that they can make a difference.

Are you one of them?

The College of Science is offering a new major in Earth & Environmental Science (EES) in fall 2023. EES is an interdisciplinary degree that enables students to study the interconnected nature of earth systems, including the fields of atmospheric science, geology, and ecology. Students with this degree will gain the education and experience to make an impact on the challenges facing our planet.

Living laboratory

So, you’re set to train to make a difference in this world. What is your laboratory going to look like?

Students who declare their EES major will engage with the living laboratory surrounding the university–studying forest ecology in the Wasatch Mountains, geology in the midst of Utah’s national parks and climate science from the top of Utah’s world-famous ski resorts.

A critical part of learning about earth systems is to experience those systems firsthand. “The ability to have our incredible landscapes as our living laboratory, it’s an amazing strength of the University of Utah,” said William Anderegg, associate professor of biology. Anderegg, who is also director of the Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy at the U, played an important role in the creation of the new major as part of a multidisciplinary team. “Utah’s geography, combined with our powerful research make the U one of the best places in the world to study environmental science.”

As an EES student, you will engage with the natural beauty of Utah while working on environmental challenges that face the state and our region. This balance of coursework both in a laboratory and in the field will prepare you for career opportunities in a wide variety of growing sectors, from environmental consulting to land management, and from conservation to corporate stewardship.

Transformational experience

The new Earth & Environmental Science major will focus on providing students with transformational experiential learning opportunities. First-year students will start their studies as part of the Science Research Initiative, where they will join a research lab during their first year on campus–no experience required. After a community-building class providing an introduction to university research, students will be paired in a “research stream” with faculty and a group of peers to experience the challenge and opportunities with research–either in the lab or in the field.

EES has a broad appeal and welcomes existing U students already pursuing science and earth science degrees, and transfer students to the U interested in climate science/environmental science education. Current students transferring into the major have the option to use previous research experience for the SRI requirement.

Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science, believes that EES will not only appeal to a new generation of students at the U, but that it provides a blueprint for other interdisciplinary programs on campus. “The new Earth and Environmental Science degree is meeting surging student and employer demand for quantitative expertise in environmental science,” said Trapa. “Thanks to the merger between the College of Science and the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, the U can deliver new world-class educational pathways to understand the science of earth’s integrated systems that lie at the heart of addressing future environmental challenges.”

The U offers two undergraduate majors that offer an interdisciplinary approach to studying the environment: Earth & Environmental Science and Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ENVST). ENVST strives to foster an understanding of ecological systems and the consequences of human-environment interactions, using a science-based focus to arrive at solutions and integrated problem solving from earth systems science, the humanities and social and behavioral sciences.

The new EES major, on the other hand, is focused on quantitative reasoning and thinking. It requires students to enroll in the science core classes, similar to most degree programs in the College of Science. Three emphases in climate science, geoscience, and ecosystem science will tailor students’ coursework to their interests, with plenty of space in schedules to add electives and supplemental coursework from different disciplines.

Advisors can help students decide which degree is right for them. Motivated students can double-major in both programs, or receive a Sustainability Certificate to add to their credentials.

Close to Home

Ainsley Nystrom

Ainsley Nystrom, a sophomore and College of Science ambassador, is excited about the possibility of declaring her EES major, which promises to streamline her current (multiple) major and minors into one degree. “I stand by the fact that climate science doesn’t just have one aspect,” she said, “and that every aspect … is very interconnected.”

A researcher in the Anderegg Lab, Nystrom studies wildfire as it relates to forest health and drought which, for her, strikes close to home. She remembers the year before she came to the U when she had to initiate an evacuation with her two younger sisters due to a threatening brush fire near their home north of Phoenix. The whys and the wherefores of that frightening scenario were complex, and different aspects that were nevertheless interrelated. And while Nystrom understands that scientists must narrow their research, the new major’s interdisciplinary approach—from atmospheric sciences to chemistry, from biology to geology and from mathematics to physics—will allow her to see how her area of study is impacted by others in living laboratories, and in what way.

“I didn’t know how big of a field environmental science was until I came to the U,” Nystrom concluded. But she knows now, and the new Earth & Environmental Science major is customized to prime her for a long career as a researcher determined to make a difference.

Course plans available now.
Visit science.utah.edu/ees for more information.

By David Pace, originally published @theU.

 

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Live on campus

Live on campus in a Science Community


One way to deepen your engagement at the U is to live in a College of Science Themed Community: College of Science First Year Floor at Kahlert Village or the Crocker Science House on Officers Circle. These communities are designed to bring students with similar interests, majors, goals, and experiences together.

College of Science First Year Floor


Kahlert Village is the newest residential community on campus and is home to approximately 990 first year students. The building features double and single rooms in cluster and suite-style configurations. Kahlert Village is centrally located on campus, includes a full-service dining facility, and a variety of classroom and study space available for students. A meal plan is required in this living area.

If you are a first year student pursuing a degree in the College of Science the Science First Year Floor is an excellent opportunity for you. Residents support each other through the rigors of their coursework while deepening their connection to the College of Science faculty, alumni, staff, and opportunities.  Resident Advisors are science students who can help mentor you through your academic career.

Crocker Science House


Nestled in Officers' Circle, at the base of the Wasatch foothills and the Shoreline Trail, the Crocker Science House provides a unique opportunity for twelve science students to live and learn together in a beautifully restored building once occupied by military officers. Crocker Science Scholars have the opportunity to attend lectures, dinners, and other events with luminaries of Utah's business, science, and academic communities. In 2018, Mario Capecchi joined the students for dinner and ping-pong. A meal plan is required in this living area.

Crocker Science Scholars come from a variety of geographic, cultural, and academic backgrounds, united by a strong drive to succeed in the physical and life sciences.   Scholars often find that living in close quarters with students from other disciplines helps them with their own work and encourages them to explore avenues of science they would not have considered otherwise.

Frequently asked questions


Housing is full for 2022-23 academic year. Application for 2023-24 opens early 2023.



Academic resources

Science Research Initiative

Scholarships, Grants & Financial Aid

Center for Science and Mathematics Education

Employment Opportunities

Science Ambassadors

Honors College

2020 Research Scholar

Delaney Mosier

Delaney Mosier receives top College of Science award.

Delaney Mosier, a graduating senior in mathematics, has been awarded the 2020 College of Science Research Scholar Award for her cutting-edge work in the area of sea ice concentration, using partial differential equation models.

“I am humbled to receive this award,” said Delaney. “The College of Science is teeming with groundbreaking research, so it’s an overwhelming honor to be considered one of the top researchers in the College. I’m proud to be a representative of the amazing research going on in the field of mathematics.”

Delaney is also proud to receive the award as a woman. “I strive to be a positive role model for girls and women in STEM. I hope that by earning this award, I can inspire other women to consider working on mathematics research.”

In his letter of support for Delaney’s nomination, Distinguished Professor Ken Golden, who has served as her supervisor and mentor, discussed her research abilities, natural leadership skills, and mathematical prowess, indicating that Delaney is one of the most talented and advanced students he has seen in his 30+ years of mentoring.

Super Student

The College of Science Research Scholar Award, established in 2004, honors the College’s most outstanding senior undergraduate researcher. The Research Scholar must be a graduating undergraduate major of the College of Science, achieve excellence in science research, have definite plans to attend graduate school in a science/math field, and be dedicated to a career in science/math research.

Studying the Behavior of Sea Ice

Delaney studies patterns in the behavior of sea ice in polar regions. She’s interested in how physical processes affect these patterns on a short-term basis and how climate change can affect them in the long-term.

The primary goal of her research with Dr. Golden is to understand better how and why sea ice is changing over time. Considered relatively low order, their model allows them to study intimately the details of the sea ice pack, which can provide insights that might not yet be apparent to the climate science community. Her work tries to answer one of the most important research questions of the modern age: Why is polar sea ice melting so rapidly and will it ever recover?

She has always been passionate about the environment and finds the project exciting because it incorporates mathematics along with studying climate. “My project is very dynamic,” she noted. “Each time I meet with Dr. Golden, we discuss something new to incorporate into our model or seek a new way to understand it. It’s thrilling to be a part of such unique and innovative work.”

Utah Strong

She became seriously interested in math because of her 7th grade algebra teacher. “Mrs. Hein fostered an exploratory environment—I collaborated with my peers and was often challenged to explore the world of mathematics for myself,” she said. “I couldn’t get enough of it. To this day, math remains the one activity that I can completely lose myself in. Math challenges my mind in exhilarating and motivating ways.”

Mentors at the U

Delaney credits Dr. Golden with helping her pursue a variety of opportunities that have furthered her career as a mathematician. She also has praise for Dr. Courtenay Strong, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, and Dr. Jingyi Zhu, associate professor of mathematics, who have served as mentors and helped guide her research.

“My friend and roommate, Katelyn Queen, has been a wonderful mentor and inspiration to me throughout my journey,” said Delaney. “She is always willing to give me advice and support me in my endeavors. I have watched her excel in her first year of graduate school, and that has inspired me in moving forward.” She also thanks fellow students and her parents for their love and support. “My parents are simply the best,” said Delaney.

Her favorite teacher at the U is Dr. Karl Schwede, professor of mathematics. “I had Dr. Schwede for several classes and learned so much,” she said. “He has high standards for his students, which motivated me and helped me to retain the material. He is also supportive and helpful.”

When she isn’t studying or doing research, she loves to dance and listen to music. She was a competitive Irish dancer from ages 11 – 17. She is also an avid reader, especially during the summer.

The Future

Goodbye Salt Lake City

Delaney will begin her Ph.D. studies in applied mathematics this fall. She hasn’t yet decided if she will work in industry, continue with climate research, or become a professor. “Whatever I decide to do, my goal is to use mathematics to have an impact on the world,” she said.

 

by Michele Swaner

 

 

Dominique Pablito

Dominique Pablito

"My interest in medicine stems from my childhood experience."

Dominque Pablito grew up in the small town of Aneth, Utah, on the Navajo Nation, and in New Mexico on the Zuni Reservation. She lived in a four-bedroom house with 13 family members, sharing a bedroom with her mother and brother, and visited relatives for extended stays.

“I spent time with my great grandmother, whose house had no running water or electricity,” said Pablito.

Because her grandparents did not speak English, Pablito learned the Zuni and Navajo languages. Pablito said her father, an alcoholic, came in and out of her life.

“I spent time with his family in the Zuni Pueblo,” said Pablito. “I love the connection that the Zuni have with the land and the spirits of the land.”

With access to math and science courses limited in reservation schools, Pablito convinced her family to move.

“We ran out of gas in Saint George, Utah, where I registered for high school even though my family was unable to find housing,” said Pablito. “During my first quarter at my new school, I slept in a 2008 Nissan Xterra with my mother, brother and grandmother while I earned straight As, took college courses at Dixie State University and competed in varsity cross country.”

Pablito met her goal of graduating from high school in three years, racking up honors and college credits.

“My mother told me I would have to excel in school to get a scholarship for college,” said Pablito. “When I graduated at 15 with an excellent GPA, having taken college courses at night and with exceptional ACT and SAT scores, I was sure I would earn the Gates Millennium Scholarship. It wasn’t enough.”

Dominique Pablito

To compensate, she applied for 15 scholarships and was awarded 12, including the Larry H. Miller Enrichment Scholarship—a full ride.

For Pablito, the transition to college life was jarring.

“It was the first time I had my own bed in my own bedroom,” said Pablito. “I missed being so close to my Zuni culture. I brought small kachina figurines with me and did my best to decorate my room like my old homes.”

Despite her hard work in high school, Pablito was not prepared for college academics and sought help from tutors, professors, and TAs.

“I spent late nights watching tutorials on YouTube,” said Pablito. “College retention rates for indigenous students are exceptionally low, so instead of going home for the summer, I sought out research internships and difficult coursework to keep busy.”

Academics were not her only challenge.

“I started college at 15 and by age 16 I had no parents,” said Pablito. “My mother was abusive and we ceased contact. At 17, I was diagnosed with an adrenal tumor, which pushed my strength to its limits. I never felt more alone in my life.”

For support, she turned to her grandparents.

“Hearing their voices speaking the languages I grew up with helped with my loneliness,” said Pablito. “My grandfather didn’t allow me to drop out of college.”

Pablito also reached out to Indigenous student groups.

“I joined AISES and the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP), which connected me with community elders,” said Pablito. “I tutored students in math and science and assisted in teaching Diné Bizaad (Navajo) to students who had never heard the language. Being a part of these communities has been crucial in my success.”

She also credits her research internships with helping her discover her strengths.

“I decided to major in chemistry when I participated in the PathMaker Research Program at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, where I used biochemistry to investigate DNA damage and repair in cancer cells,” said Pablito. “Dr. Srividya Bhaskara guided me through the world of research, helping me earn many awards and grants.”

In the lab Pablito learned the important lesson that failure is inevitable.

“I began to think that science wasn’t for me, until I understood that failure is a part of research,” said Pablito. “What matters is how you handle that failure.”

She had a different lab experience during an internship at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. There she used targeted photoactivatable multi-inhibitor liposomes to induce site-specific cell damage in various cancer cells.

“That’s where my research interest in cancer and molecular biology developed,” said Pablito. “That internship taught me how to effectively present scientific data and how important community can be for the success of Native students.”

Her interest in medicine stems from her childhood experience with the Indian Health Service.

“Many of my elders distrusted going to doctors because most health care providers are white,” said Pablito. “My great-grandfathers’ illnesses could have been treated much better had they visited a doctor sooner. I will use my medical training to improve the care of elders on my reservation by integrating culture, language and medicine.”

In addition to earning an MD in family medicine, Pablito plans to earn a doctoral degree in cancer biology and eventually open a lab on the Zuni Pueblo to expose students to research.

“I want to spark an interest in STEM in future generations of Indigenous scholars,” said Pablito. “I want to give them advantages I never had.”

 

by D.J. Pollard
American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

The AISES magazine, People in Winds of Change, focuses on career and educational advancement for Native people in STEM fields. The article below first appeared in the Spring 2020 Issue.

 

 

Goldwater Winner

Isaac Martin

Isaac Martin awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

The College of Science is pleased to announce that Isaac Martin, a junior studying mathematics and physics, has been awarded Utah's second Goldwater Scholarship for 2020-21.

During middle school and most of high school, Isaac lived in Dubai with his family, where he attended an online high school, allowing him to focus on science and math classes. When his family moved to Utah the summer before his senior year, he decided to attend Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) instead of finishing high school, taking as many math and physics classes as he could.

“It was incredible because I had never had teachers like that before,” said Isaac. “My professors at SLCC were more than happy to talk with me after class and during office hours. They were the main reason I was able to complete SLCC's catalog of math and physics courses in a year. They were instrumental in my decision to switch out of my pre-declared computer engineering major into a math and physics double major at the U.”

Transition to Math

During Isaac’s first four semesters at the U, he intended to pursue a physics Ph.D. and focused primarily on physics classes; however, after brief stints in two different labs, he realized mathematics is a better fit for his talents and interests.

Last summer, Isaac participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his work has since resulted in a publication. Isaac has been planning to attend the University of Chicago’s REU math program this summer, but if that doesn’t happen due to COVID-19 concerns, he will continue working on positive characteristic commutative algebra with his U supervisors, Thomas Polstra, a National Science Foundation postdoc, and Professor Karl Schwede.

He is indebted to professors in the Math Department, including Dr. Adam Boocher, previously a postdoc at the U and now assistant professor of mathematics at the University of San Diego; Professor Srikanth Iyengar; Dr. Schwede, Dr. Polstra; and Professor Henryk Hecht. “The thing I appreciate most about my mentors is their willingness to take time out their day to talk to me and offer advice,” said Isaac. “My conversations with them are mathematically insightful, but they also reassure me that I'm worth something as a person and am good enough to pursue a career in math.”

Career Goals

When he’s not doing math, Isaac is most likely either playing piano, rock climbing, running in the foothills, or beating his roommates in Smash Bros Ultimate. “I used to have a huge passion for video game programming and would compete in game jams, which are game development competitions held over 36- or 48-hour time intervals,” said Isaac. “I haven’t been able to do that much in the last few years, but would like to pick it up again as a hobby.”

Isaac hopes to have a career in academia as a pure mathematics researcher. “I'd especially like to study problems in commutative algebra and representation theory with relevance to mathematical physics,” he said. Isaac also remains interested in the world of condensed matter. “There is so much novel mathematics dictating theoretical condensed matter, and I expect many exciting breakthroughs will happen there in the near future.”

 

The Goldwater Scholarship

 

 

As the result of a partnership with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs (NDEP), Mrs. Peggy Goldwater Clay, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, announced that the Trustees of the Goldwater Board have increased the number of Goldwater scholarships it has awarded for the 2020-2021 academic year to 396 college students from across the United States. “As it is vitally important that the Nation ensures that it has the scientific talent it needs to maintain its global competitiveness and security, we saw partnering with the Goldwater Foundation as a way to help ensure the U.S. is developing this talent,” said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, Director of the NDEP program, as he explained the partnership. With the 2020 awards, this brings the number of scholarships awarded since 1989 by the Goldwater Foundation to 9047 and a scholarship total to over $71M.

From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1343 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 461 academic institutions to compete for the 2020 Goldwater scholarships. Of students who reported, 191 of the Scholars are men, 203 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Fifty Scholars are mathematics and computer science majors, 287 are majoring in the natural sciences, and 59 are majoring in engineering. Many of the Scholars have published their research in leading journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences.

Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 93 Rhodes Scholarships, 146 Marshall Scholarships, 170 Churchill Scholarships, 109 Hertz Fellowships, and numerous other distinguished awards like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

 

by Michele Swaner

 

 

Goldwater Winner

Lydia Fries

Lydia Fries awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

The College of Science is pleased to announce that Lydia Fries has been awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for 2020-21.

As a junior in chemistry, Lydia intends to obtain a Ph.D. in either organic chemistry or electrochemistry. She has done research in both Matt Sigman’s and Shelley Minteer’s groups, and Lydia is an author on two papers with both professors. She has worked on a variety of projects involving electrochemistry, palladium catalysis, and computationally focused projects. As an undergraduate she enrolls in many graduate-level courses and is a Teaching Assistant for Organic Spectroscopy I. Lydia was accepted to REU programs this summer, but has committed to an internship at Genentech and hopes that the current pandemic will have subsided by the time her internship is to begin mid-May.

With encouragement from high school teachers, Lydia followed her passion and her strong aptitude for STEM subjects, and ignored the warnings from her broader community that she shouldn’t pursue such an expensive and “useless” degree. She followed her heart and her brain to the University of Utah where she landed in the ACCESS program and was immediately surrounded by many intelligent and motivated women.

In addition to her studies, Lydia enjoys rock climbing and spending time outdoors, and is currently staying at safe at home in St. George.

The Goldwater Scholarship

As the result of a partnership with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs (NDEP), Mrs. Peggy Goldwater Clay, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, announced that the Trustees of the Goldwater Board have increased the number of Goldwater scholarships it has awarded for the 2020-2021 academic year to 396 college students from across the United States. “As it is vitally important that the Nation ensures that it has the scientific talent it needs to maintain its global competitiveness and security, we saw partnering with the Goldwater Foundation as a way to help ensure the U.S. is developing this talent,” said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, Director of the NDEP program, as he explained the partnership. With the 2020 awards, this brings the number of scholarships awarded since 1989 by the Goldwater Foundation to 9047 and a scholarship total to over $71M.

From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1343 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 461 academic institutions to compete for the 2020 Goldwater scholarships. Of students who reported, 191 of the Scholars are men, 203 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Fifty Scholars are mathematics and computer science majors, 287 are majoring in the natural sciences, and 59 are majoring in engineering. Many of the Scholars have published their research in leading journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences.

Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 93 Rhodes Scholarships, 146 Marshall Scholarships, 170 Churchill Scholarships, 109 Hertz Fellowships, and numerous other distinguished awards like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

 

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on November 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

 

by Anne Marie Vivienne,
Chemistry News - 03/30/2020

Quaid Harding

From beekeeping to biology, Quaid Harding is looking for a buzz.

Name: Quaid Harding
Major: Biology
Year: Senior
Hometown: Garner, North Carolina

Interests: President of Beekeeping Association, I also like tennis, and billiards

Prior experience with bees?
Before joining the club I didn’t have any experience with bees.

How did you get into beekeeping?
Beekeeping has always been a topic that I was interested in but it wasn't until transferring to the U that I had the opportunity to work with the club and quickly fell in love.

Tell us about the Beekeeping Club.
We have 149 members, 6 Hives, and more than 300,000 bees.

Tell us something most people don’t know about bees.
Not all bees make honey. In fact most do not make honey or even live in a colony.

Tell us about the Pollination Garden.
I wanted to bring more pollinators to campus so I came up with the idea to add a pollinator garden to a landscaping project that was already underway. I had a vision and found a team to help me bring that vision to life.

How has your extracurricular involvement helped your professional skills.
It has helped me get plenty of practice with grant writing, leading a group, facilitating meetings, building interest, networking, and my favorite learning how to care for the bees and even get honey along the way.

To find out more about the University of Utah Beekeeping Club visit https://bit.ly/30xyIVp.

 


 

Zhao Scholarship

Taylor is the first recipient of the Michael Zhao Memorial Scholarship. She’s a senior majoring in mathematics and minoring in computer science and plans to graduate in the spring of 2020.

“The financial assistance provided by the scholarship will be of great help to me in paying for my educational expenses, and it will allow me to concentrate more of my time on studying,” said Walker. “After graduating, I plan on entering the workforce in a math related field. I hope to honor Michael’s legacy in mathematics as I continue to learn about a subject we both enjoy.”

Michael Zhao loved sushi, travel and classical music. His lifelong passion and ardent pursuit, however, was always mathematics. His fascination with math took him from the 100 Club in kindergarten to Cambridge University as a Churchill Scholar. On December 8, 2018, while at Columbia University in New York City chasing his goal of becoming a college professor, Zhao passed away due to a sudden heart attack.

But on April 18, Zhao’s zeal for math continued with the naming of the first recipient of the Michael Zhao Memorial Scholarship. Taylor Walker, a senior studying mathematics and computer science, is the first awardee.

“The scholarship aims to recognize a truly outstanding mathematics student,” said Davar Khoshnevisan, chair of the Department of Mathematics, “which is consistent with celebrating Michael’s memory.”

Zhao grew up in Salt Lake City and attended Skyline High School, where he was first chair in flute and served as captain of the debate team while also attending Canada/USA Mathcamp and taking math courses at the U. As an undergraduate at the U, Zhao received the Eccles Scholarship that supported his studies in the Honors College. Zhao was intrigued by the breadth of study the Honors College offered—a place where he could read Thomas Aquinas and David Hume, while also studying Eastern philosophy and literature from texts like the Bhagavad Gita and the Daodejing.

In 2017 he was the second U student to win the prestigious Churchill Scholarship. “It’s a common perception that skill in mathematics is only due to talent, but hard work counts for much more” Zhao said. “Having mentors is also extremely helpful, and I am indebted to many faculty members, graduate students, and engineers for their guidance and encouragement.”

Many of the faculty in the U’s Math Department have fond memories of working with Zhao. In an interview in 2017, professor of mathematics Gordon Savin, who served as Michael’s honors thesis advisor, said, “Mike is one of the strongest undergraduate students we have had since I have been at the University of Utah, in more than 20 years. For someone his age, he already has an incredible level of maturity and mathematical knowledge."

He also worked with Dragan Miličić. In the same interview, Miličić said, “We often have discussions on various topics related to algebraic geometry, number theory, and representation theory. I was always impressed that talking to Mike feels more like talking with a colleague and not a student.”

Another professor who worked with Zhao was Braxton Osting, who said, “Many people remember Michael as a brilliant student, excelling under an almost impossible course load covering a large range of topics in mathematics and computer science. In spending time with Michael, I also came to know him as a genuinely kind person, generous with his time and helpful to his fellow students.”

After Zhao passed away, math department faculty and fellow Churchill Scholars approached Khoshnevisan with the idea of establishing a scholarship in Zhao’s name. Khoshnevisan got approval from Zhao’s parents. They, along with colleagues, friends and even his high school math teacher, reached out to their community for donations.

The new scholarship, partly funded by the Department of Mathematics and partly by donors, keeps Zhao’s memory alive. If you’d like to contribute to this scholarship, please make checks payable to the Michael Zhao Memorial Scholarship and send donations to the following: Tiffany Jensen Department of Mathematics 155 South 1400 East, JWB 233 Salt Lake City, UT 84112

Rachel Cantrell

2019 Goldwater Recipient


A 2019 Goldwater Scholarship has been awarded to Rachel Cantrell, a junior majoring in chemistry.

Cantrell has maintained a near perfect GPA while working in professor Ryan E. Looper's laboratories on orthogonal projects. She lists her mentors as, Stefan Schulz, Ryan LooperJon SegerMatthew NelliMarkus MenkeChelsea HarmonCody Bender, and Autumn Amici.

Rachel plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry, with the overall goal of becoming a research and teaching professor.
 

THE GOLDWATER SCHOLARSHIP


As the result of a partnership with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs (NDEP), Mrs. Peggy Goldwater Clay, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, announced that the Trustees of the Goldwater Board have increased the number of Goldwater scholarships it has awarded for the 2020-2021 academic year to 396 college students from across the United States. “As it is vitally important that the Nation ensures that it has the scientific talent it needs to maintain its global competitiveness and security, we saw partnering with the Goldwater Foundation as a way to help ensure the U.S. is developing this talent,” said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, Director of the NDEP program, as he explained the partnership. With the 2020 awards, this brings the number of scholarships awarded since 1989 by the Goldwater Foundation to 9047 and a scholarship total to over $71M.

From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1343 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 461 academic institutions to compete for the 2020 Goldwater scholarships. Of students who reported, 191 of the Scholars are men, 203 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Fifty Scholars are mathematics and computer science majors, 287 are majoring in the natural sciences, and 59 are majoring in engineering. Many of the Scholars have published their research in leading journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences.

Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 93 Rhodes Scholarships, 146 Marshall Scholarships, 170 Churchill Scholarships, 109 Hertz Fellowships, and numerous other distinguished awards like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on November 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.