Three UO undergraduates awarded Goldwater Scholarships

Three University of Oregon students have been selected as recipients of the Goldwater Scholarship, an especially impressive number considering institutions are only allowed to nominate four students per year for the award.  

The award, which gives students up to $7,500 for their junior and senior years to be used toward tuition fees, books or room and board, is given to students who plan to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics or engineering.

Chase Craig, a triple major in mathematics, physics and computer science; Emily Niebergall, a biology major; and Madi Scott, a biochemistry major were selected from a field of more than 1,200 students to receive the 2019 award.

“Our students are incredibly impressive,” said Josh Snodgrass, associate vice provost for undergraduate research and distinguished scholarships. “What makes these three Goldwater Scholarship winners even more notable are the ways they’ve connected with programs and projects across our campus, being enriched by faculty and fellow students and enriching others with their intellect and their drive to succeed.”

All three students expressed feelings ranging from “shock and gratitude” to “incredible pride” when talking about receiving the award, as well as the help they were given by people across the UO campus in their pursuit of the scholarship and their individual areas of study.

“This whole process amazed me,” Niebergall said. “The Goldwater seemed so unattainable for so long, but people here were just incredible and I gained so much confidence through the process of preparing my application.”

Niebergall, who is studying evolutionary biology, plans to pursue a doctorate in immunology after graduating from the UO. She wants to focus on studying tropical and neglected diseases that are not prevalent in the wealthy nations. At the UO, Niebergall has worked in William Cresko’s laboratory on immunogenetics projects, most recently, on the onset of adaptive immunity in threespine stickleback fish. She is a Clark Honors College student and a Knight Campus Undergraduate Scholar.

Scott, also a Clark Honors College student, has fostered a longtime interest in chemistry through work in professor Cathy Wong’s lab, using laser spectrometry to get down to the molecular level and see how the structure of different substances evolve as they form larger structures. The work Scott has been doing could affect how semiconductors, solar cells, LEDs and other materials are constructed in the future.

While she originally intended to go to medical school when she entered the UO, Scott is now set on earning a doctorate in physical chemistry after graduation. She is a two-time presenter at the National Diversity in STEM Conference, received a Center for Undergraduate Research and Engagement summer research fellowship and is a Presidential Undergraduate Research Scholar.

Craig, busy with his coursework and working in the laboratory of physics professor Benjamín Alemán, almost didn’t apply for the Goldwater but did so at the urging of Alemán, who is more than just a mentor to Craig.

“I wouldn’t be here at the UO without him,” Craig said. “That man has done so much for me.”

Craig started as a high schooler in Alemán’s Physics 251 course, which was the impetus for realizing he had a future at the UO and in advanced research work. Craig eventually wants to do research that involves artificial intelligence and autonomous rovers.

He is involved in The North Star Project, which improves the student experience by “cultivating an inclusive environment that supports excellence and diversity in the physical sciences,” and has won several scholarships and honors, including the Julifs Scholarship and the Oregon Space Grant Consortium scholarship.

—By Kimberly Lamke Calderon, University Communications