MACON – Mercer University has an unprecedented three recipients in a single year of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s most prestigious scholarship for undergraduates in science, mathematics and engineering.
Juniors Amanda Cimino, Charlotte Dungan and Brady Simon are among 496 college sophomores and juniors from across the U.S. – including 24 from Georgia institutions – to be awarded the scholarship for the 2019-2020 academic year. They bring the University’s total number of recipients to nine over the past seven years, making Mercer one of the state’s leading producers of Goldwater Scholars.
A total of 1,223 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 443 academic institutions to compete for the 2019 Goldwater Scholarship. Of students who reported, 252 of the Scholars are women, 241 are men and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. Sixty-two Scholars are mathematics and computer science majors, 360 are majoring in the natural sciences and 74 are majoring in engineering.
The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.
“The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier program for recognizing America’s best young scientists and engineers. Applicants undergo a rigorous application process during which they must highlight their knowledge of their own research area and demonstrate their commitment to pursuing a career in research,” said Dr. Adam Kiefer, Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and Goldwater Scholarship faculty representative at Mercer. “This award is not only a testament to these students’ hard work, intelligence and determination, but also recognizes their potential as future researchers.”
Cimino, from Flowery Branch, is double-majoring in biomedical engineering and biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB). She plans to obtain a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and conduct research in the field of regenerative medicine.
“I am grateful to have been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship and to see validation of my hard work,” said Cimino. “I am very thankful to my adviser, Dr. Joanna Thomas, for encouraging me to explore my interests in engineering and science and for helping me to pursue research opportunities, both at Mercer and through a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) I attended last summer at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where I worked in the lab of Dr. Srivatsan Kidambi. These experiences have been important steps toward reaching my career goals.”
Cimino conducts research in the lab of Dr. Thomas, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, involving drug-releasing polymers. In addition to participating in the National Science Foundation (NSF) REU in biomedical engineering, she has presented her research at venues such as the 50th annual meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the 24th annual Regenerative Medicine Workshop.
She participated in a Mercer On Mission trip to Peru and is a member of the Engineering Scholars Track of the University Honors Program, Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi honor societies and the Society of Women Engineers. She is a Presidential Scholar and has earned President’s List and Dean’s List recognition.
“Amanda has been an exemplary student both in the classroom and in my research lab,” said Dr. Thomas, assistant professor of biomedical engineering. “She is the first student ever at Mercer to double-major in biomedical engineering and biochemistry and molecular biology, which has helped her make significant contributions to interdisciplinary research projects and is preparing her to be successful at a top biomedical engineering Ph.D. program.”
Dungan, from Marietta, is majoring in environmental engineering with a minor in technical communication. She plans to earn a Ph.D. in water resource engineering and conduct research related to water quality, hydrology and hydraulics.
“Being named a Goldwater Scholar is the highest honor as an engineering research student,” said Dungan. “I can’t describe how proud I am to represent Mercer for this award. The mentoring I received during my Mercer On Mission experience to the Dominican Republic solidified my passion for this field. Dr. Michael MacCarthy and Dr. André Butler have guided my research every step of the way, and have been instrumental in my success.”
Dungan conducts research in the lab of Dr. MacCarthy incorporating new and cost-effective technologies to access clean drinking water in developing nations. During her Mercer On Mission trip, she served as water quality lead for mountain hydrology research, and she also participated in an NSF REU to Stanford University as part of the ReNUWIt (Re-Inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure) Program, working in the laboratory of Dr. William Mitch.
Last spring, she was selected as the University’s first Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholar by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and she will conduct research this summer at the National Weather Service in Anchorage, Alaska. She is a Stamps Scholar and member of Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies, and has earned President’s List and Dean’s List recognition.
“Charlotte is an outstanding student and tireless worker – in her coursework and in her roles in environmental and civil engineering research and service at Mercer,” said Dr. MacCarthy, assistant professor and director of the engineering for development program. “This includes her important research and training contributions to Mercer On Mission activities in the Dominican Republic focused on improving access to safe water for rural households.”
Simon, from Rome, is majoring in computer engineering. He plans to earn a Ph.D. in computer engineering and develop data-driven control strategies as a computationally-oriented control researcher.
“I’m thrilled that I’ve been selected as a Goldwater Scholar,” said Simon. “It’s gratifying to see my hard work pay off. The support I’ve received from my professors, like Dr. Makhin Thitsa and Dr. Donald Ekong, is incredible. I’m excited to continue my controls research with Dr. Thitsa and mobile app development with Dr. Ekong’s oversight.”
Simon conducts research in the lab of Dr. Thitsa involving the development of control systems for lasers. He has participated in a U.S. Army Research Laboratory summer internship working with erbium-doped laser fibers to determine feasibility as a laser component, published two peer-reviewed research articles, and he will attend this summer’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in San Jose, California.
He is a member of Tau Beta Pi honor society and has earned President’s List and Dean’s List recognition.
“Brady has made enormous contributions to research in my laboratory, and is contributing to changing the field of computational control methods,” said Dr. Thitsa, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. “He is undoubtedly one of the best undergraduate researchers I have ever had the pleasure of collaborating with.”
Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials that have garnered the attention of prestigious postgraduate fellowship programs. Scholars have been awarded 92 Rhodes Scholarships, 137 Marshall Awards, 159 Churchill Scholarships, 104 Hertz Fellowships and numerous other distinguished awards like National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.
The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on Nov. 14, 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 preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.