Three Clemson University undergraduates are recipients of the 2022 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the premier and highly competitive national award for students who have the potential to advance research in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering.
The selection of geology major Jennifer Briglio, materials science and engineering major Arabella Hunter, and Grant Wilkins, who double majors in computer engineering and mathematics, brings Clemson’s total number of Goldwater Scholars to 54.
In all, only 417 college students nationwide received scholarships from more than 1,200 nominations from 433 schools.
“Top scholarships like this help spread the word about the high-quality students and programs at Clemson University, while helping create the leading engineers and scientists of the future,” continued Gramopadhye.
Clemson’s recipients were among only 45 students majoring in mathematics and computer science, and 64 in engineering chosen for the 2022 cohort.
“Conducting independent research under the mentorship of an outstanding faculty member is one of our signature experiences,” continued Young. “Consistently having multiple Goldwater Scholars is national recognition of the remarkable undergraduate programs here at Clemson.”
Recipients receive scholarships of $7,500 for tuition, fees, books or room and board.
“Many nationally competitive programs have seen fewer applications due to COVID, however, the Goldwater has not seen any reduction, so we’re very proud of these results,” said Robyn Curtis, director of the Office of Major Fellowships. “It is especially exciting for the geology and materials science departments to have their first Scholars recognized.”
Briglio has always had an interest in geology and earth sciences. Her research focuses on bedrock in the critical zone, an area that encompasses everything between treetops to the bottom of the ground – and that supports life on our planet.
A member of the Clemson University Honors College, Briglio uses ground penetrating radar to investigate how composition differences in rock type can influence how they weather, which in turn affects water availability and ecosystem resilience.
She started exploring the relationship between geophysics and climate science in earnest during her sophomore year, organizing legacy geophysical data with environmental engineering and earth sciences assistant professor Brady Flinchum, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Flinchum was impressed by her curiosity, ingenuity, and perseverance.
Now Briglio is on track to author a published, peer-reviewed paper before she completes her undergraduate degree, and has already presented her work three times, including two international conferences.
She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in geophysics, using geophysical techniques to develop climate change mitigation solutions.
In addition to her research, Briglio serves as the geology representative on the CECAS student advisory board. She is also a member of the Order of Omega, a national honors society for members of Greek organizations who exemplify high leadership standards, and the Delta Zeta sorority.
Last year, she received the geology department’s Jean G. Stillwell Award, which recognizes the program’s most outstanding junior. She is also this year’s Outstanding Senior in CECAS.
“Receiving this award has been such an honor to me and I am proud to be able to represent the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences here at Clemson,” said Briglio. “This award only reinforces my belief in myself that I will one day be able to make an impact on the world by conducting climate change and sustainability research.”
Arabella Hunter wasn’t satisfied with the shoe options available for her horse, Rebel, who was suffering from early onset arthritis. A farrier gave her one of her horse’s shoes and told her to make it better.
She set to work and quickly realized that the solutions she was developing also had biomedical applications for people.
Her research as a Clemson student started in her first year, as a member of a bioengineering group exploring the influence of hippotherapy on rehabilitating stroke patients.
She applied her knowledge of horses and their range of motion towards calculations that would later be used to design a therapeutic instrument.
She now explores the effectiveness of hydrogels as a medium for intra-articular joint injections to treat osteoarthritis in the knees. Her current focus is on synthesizing new magnetic nanoparticle materials to characterize the viscosity of different mediums and study their behavior for use in biological imaging applications.
She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in polymer science and engineering, for a career exploring drug delivery mechanisms.
“Through her perseverance she has been able to combine materials chemistry, nanoscale characterization, and magnetic spectroscopy to solve problems across many different fields,” continued Mefford.
In spring 2021, Hunter was recognized as a Beckman Scholar. She’s presenting her research to date with the Materials Research Society in Honolulu and the 13 annual Scientific and Clinical Applications of Magnetic Carriers Meeting in London this summer.
She has also received several college and department awards, including the Leader for Tomorrow Scholarship and Robert W. Moorman award, recognizing the most outstanding junior in CECAS.
Hunter is active in the campus community, having served as a representative on the CECAS student advisory board, Materials Science and Engineering Ambassador, tutor for the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, and in several student-led organizations on campus.
“It is a great honor to be selected for this award and to be able to represent MSE as the first of many future students to come. I am beyond grateful for the support I have received to continue my passion from the Goldwater, Beckman and Annexstad foundations, said Hunter. “I would not be the person I am today without the mentorship and support from Clemson, my adviser Dr. Mefford, and my professors, friends and family.”
Grant Wilkins planned to study mathematics and physics in college until an AP computer science class took him down a different path in eleventh grade.
The course had him look at challenges through a programming lens – and led him to computational quantum chemistry.
His research applies his mathematical and computer engineering knowledge to the country’s electrical grid, which often struggles in natural disasters associated with climate change. Improving the energy efficiency of lossy compression algorithms used on high-performance computing systems could create a more distributed and resilient grid, keeping the power on in weather-related crises.
Last summer, Wilkins worked as a software engineering intern at Tesla. He supported the development of a new system to dispatch tens of thousands of home batteries powered by solar energy to support the company’s grid during its peak load.
“I have always been interested in clean energy and combatting climate change, so working for a company in the energy sector was a major eye-opener for me,” said Wilkins. “My Tesla internship is one of the reasons why I started looking into smart grid technology.”
Wilkins shared his research in a poster presentation at Supercomputing 2020. His work was also recently accepted for publication at the third Workshop on Extreme-Scale Storage and Analysis (ESSA 2022).
Jon Calhoun, Wilkins’ adviser and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, said he is impressed by Wilkins’ insight, research ability and initiative.
“Grant has a bright future ahead of him, and I am excited to see what he is able to accomplish in the next few years,” continued Calhoun.
Wilkins is a Clemson University Honors College member, National Scholar and Dixon Global Policy Scholar. He plans to study abroad at Stellenbosch University in South Africa this summer to further develop his global perspectives.
He was also recognized with a National Merit Scholarship and the Rhodes Most Outstanding Junior by the computer engineering department and holds membership in several honors societies.
“I am very grateful to the Goldwater Foundation, Robyn Curtis at the Office of Major Fellowships and my Clemson professors, particularly Drs. Calhoun and Coykendall, for their mentorship, guidance and support,” said Wilkins. “I look forward to using this award to challenge myself and help find a solution to this critical issue.”
Students interested in applying for the Goldwater Scholarship and other nationally competitive awards should contact the Office of Major Fellowships at 864-656-9704 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Goldwater Scholarships
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Goldwater, who served 30 years in the U.S. Senate.
The program encourages the continued development of highly qualified students in the United States studying science, mathematics, or engineering and who intend to pursue doctorates. Recipients receive scholarships of $7,500 for tuition, fees, books or room and board.
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