Mercer Student Earns Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship


MACON – Mercer junior Aaron Featherston has earned one of the nation's most prestigious and competitive research scholarships for undergraduates, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

Featherston, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from Bryon, works in Dr. David Goode's lab at Mercer. In the lab, Featherston has been working toward the synthesis of a natural product isolated from a sea sponge that may one day serve as the basis for a new class of antibiotics. He plans to earn a Doctor of Philosophy in pharmacology and conduct research to develop new treatments for cancer patients.

“The Goldwater Scholarship is the most prestigious award for undergraduate science and engineering students in the country, and we are proud of Aaron for both the accomplishment and the hard work he put into his application,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “It is a great honor for Aaron, for the outstanding student-centered faculty who mentor him, and for the University as a whole.”

Featherston received one of only 271 scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit for the 2013–2014 academic year. The scholarship is for undergraduate sophomores and juniors from the United States studying mathematics, science or engineering. This year, faculty at colleges and universities around the nation nominated 1,107 students. The one- and two-year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

“Being selected as a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar is a very rewarding opportunity that will advance my research career,” Featherston said. “It is only the extraordinary assistance provided by the professors here at Mercer University – both inside and outside of the lab – that has made an opportunity like this possible. I am very thankful to have been given the opportunities I have, and for the support and help from all of my professors.”

“Aaron is truly passionate about research, and it shows in his dedication and strong work ethic in the lab,” said Dr. Goode, an assistant professor of chemistry. “He is one of the best research students that I have encountered at Mercer. He is always adding to his chemical knowledge by reading current, peer-reviewed literature.”

Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 118 Marshall Awards, 110 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships.

“Applicants undergo a rigorous application process, and must write a detailed scientific proposal for an independent research project,” said Dr Adam Kiefer, an assistant professor of chemistry and the Goldwater faculty representative at Mercer. “This award is not only a testament to his hard work, intelligence and determination, but also recognizes his potential as a future researcher.”

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on Nov. 14, 1986. The scholarship program, honoring Sen. 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. Since its first award in 1989, the Foundation has bestowed more than 6,550 scholarships worth approximately $40 million. The trustees plan to award about 300 scholarships for the 2014–2015 academic year.