Two UO juniors named 2015 Goldwater Scholars

UO Goldwater Scholars Kyla Martichuski and John Gillies

University of Oregon juniors Kyla Martichuski and John Gillies have been named 2015 Goldwater Scholars, a prestigious national award that recognizes undergraduates for their research work in mathematics, science and engineering.

Martichuski and Gillies are the only recipients from an Oregon university. Of the 1,200 applicants, 260 were selected to receive the scholarship.

Martichuski and Gillies will each receive up to $7,500 for tuition, fees, and room and board for their senior years. More importantly, the two survived a rigorous application process to emerge with national recognition of their undergraduate research.

Martichuski, from Salem, is a biology and human physiology major with a minor in chemistry. She works in professor Jessica Green’s lab in the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, where she is researching the diversity and temporal dynamics of fungal communities in the atmosphere.

Gillies, from Junction City, is a biochemistry major with a minor in business administration whose research looks at protein interaction with single-strand DNA. He works in Andrew Marcus’ lab in the Institute of Molecular Biology. 

“I took a general chemistry class my freshman year from Andrew Marcus,” Gillies said. “I read one of his papers and went in to talk about it with him. That led to a spot in the lab and getting to work on this research.

“It’s a great honor to win this award, especially given its prestige,” he said. “The funding is nice, of course, but what I appreciate most is getting the recognition for the research I have done.”

The trek to earning the scholarships started about a year ago when top students in math and sciences were encouraged by faculty advisors to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship, said Lexy Wellman, undergraduate education coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences. Of the 25 who showed interest, 12 submitted applications in October to the UO’s selection committee, which is made up of a faculty representative from each of the eight science departments.

Each school is allowed to submit four students. The four students selected by the committee worked with faculty advisors over winter break to write their research essays.

“A lot of the best people in science have received Goldwaters as undergraduates, including some of our faculty,” said Hal Sadofsky, the UO faculty coordinator for the Goldwater Scholarship, associate professor of mathematics and associate dean for natural sciences. “Getting one Goldwater Scholar at an institution is an honor. Getting two is fantastic. For Kyla and John, this is a combination of recognition for what great work they are already doing as students and researchers and a vote of confidence in their future as researchers.”

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation  is a federally endowed agency created in 1986. According to its website, the scholarship program “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.”

Both students plan to attend graduate school in their chosen fields.

“I am so incredibly honored to have been selected as a Goldwater Scholar,” Martichuski said. “I know that there are many talented young scientists around the country conducting important scientific studies, and I am honored to be recognized for the work that I am doing.”

—By Heidi Hiaasen, Public Affairs Communications