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Tulips at the Gateway to the Sciences during the spring semester.

Two Penn Staters selected for competitive national Goldwater Scholarship

Scholarship rewards U.S. undergraduates studying in select STEM fields
3 May 2022

Penn State juniors Ellie Kim and Jack Piazza have been selected as 2022 Goldwater Scholars. The scholarship, which provides up to $7,500 per year for U.S. undergraduates studying natural science, mathematics or engineering, is among the most competitive in the nation.  

Ellie Kim wearing floral shirt

Ellie Kim, of State College, Pennsylvania, is a Schreyer Scholar majoring in general music (piano) and biochemistry and molecular biology. Her undergraduate research under Moriah Szpara, associate professor of biology and of biochemistry and molecular biology, focuses on how the genetic diversity of herpes viruses brings about different characteristics in their infectivity and severity.   

“Despite facing numerous challenges to research during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellie’s stamina and drive enabled her to develop a new computational project in my lab, and to pursue hands-on research opportunities in two fellowship-based research programs,” Szpara said. 

Kim also pursued research opportunities outside Penn State at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where she worked with Leah Kottyan, associate professor in the University of Cincinnati Department of Pediatrics, to establish a link between the Epstein-Barr virus and multiple sclerosis. She also recently worked as an intern in Germany through the DAAD RISE program to conduct diabetes research. 

“I was very excited when I got the news that I was selected as one of the Goldwater scholars because it felt like a great recognition of all my efforts from previous years,” Kim said. “It reaffirmed my interest in pursuing a research career as I gear up to apply for M.D./Ph.D. programs this upcoming cycle.” 

Jack Piazza

Jack Piazza, also of State College, Pennsylvania, is a junior Schreyer Scholar mathematics major. Since his first year at Penn State, Piazza has worked on computability theory under Jan Reimann, associate professor of mathematics, exploring different notions of what makes a sequence of digits random and working on finding which of these notions have properties that are useful in other areas of math. Pizza has also been active in the Penn State Logic Seminar since his second year and gave three expository talks from fall 2020 to spring 2022. 

“Jack is a fantastic student. He is superbly talented, very curious and full of original ideas,” Reimann said. “He is hard working and always stays humble. It is an absolute pleasure working with Jack and I am excited to see where his path will take him.” 

“I was extremely happy to find out I received a Goldwater scholarship,” Piazza said. “The award and all the opportunities it comes with will be a huge help to me in pursuing a research career in math. I’m so thankful to my mentors, advisers and everyone who helped me out with the application process.” 

About the Goldwater Scholarship  

The scholarship, named for statesman Barry Goldwater, each year awards 300 undergraduates in their second or third year of study in the fields of natural science, engineering, and mathematics.  

Those interested in competing for a Goldwater Scholarship next year should contact Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring (URFM) to learn more about the scholarship program, verify that they meet the eligibility criteria and begin the application process. Applicants must be U.S citizens, U.S. nationals or permanent residents in their sophomore or junior year and demonstrate an interest in a research career in select STEM fields. Applicants must submit a pre-application form and complete a full application during the fall semester to be considered for University nomination. Penn State nominates four students each year.  

Students interested in developing their potential for research and fellowships can start by meeting with an Undergraduate Research Ambassadorattending a workshop from URFM or applying to the Spark Program.   

Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring is part of Penn State Office of Undergraduate Education