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UNL Announce

Record number of Goldwater Scholars named

The four UNL students to receive Goldwater Scholarships are (clockwise from top left) Rachel Coburn, Elizabeth Spring Jaensch, Jared Ostdiek and Joseph Phillips.
The four UNL students to receive Goldwater Scholarships are (clockwise from top left) Rachel Coburn, Elizabeth Spring Jaensch, Jared Ostdiek and Joseph Phillips.

Four UNL students have won highly competitive, national Goldwater Scholarships for their excellence in science. Because UNL is limited to four nominees in the competition, four winners is the maximum attainable — and a record number of scholarships for UNL in this annual competition.

Winners are: Rachel Coburn of Papillion, Elizabeth Spring Jaensch of Naperville, Ill., Jared Paul Ostdiek of Columbus and Joseph Phillips of Omaha. All are majoring in the biological sciences.

The scholarships are awarded annually to future scientists, mathematicians and engineers. About 300 college sophomores and juniors receive the scholarship nationwide. The awards are for up to $7,500 per year for educational expenses. UNL was one of only four universities in the country to have received four Goldwater scholarships.

Coburn, a sophomore biochemistry major, was ecstatic when she was notified that she'd won the scholarship. "I feel honored and proud to be one of four scholars representing the University of Nebraska-Lincoln," she said. Coburn said she plans to pursue a doctorate in biological sciences focusing on evolutionary genetics, hoping to become a researcher like her mentor, Stacey Smith, assistant professor of biological sciences at UNL. Coburn and Smith are conducting research on the biochemical flavonoid pathways of a South American shrub.

Jaensch, also a biochemistry major, said winning a Goldwater Scholarship will be boost to help her get into a top graduate school. She is a member of the University Honors Program and had a UCARE (Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experiences) fellowship conducting undergraduate research alongside biological sciences professor Zoya Avramova. Jaensch received a 2011 DAAD RISE (German Academic Exchange Service Research Internships In Science and Engineering) scholarship to conduct research in Germany last summer.

"The scholarship is a formal recognition of the hard work I've put into my undergraduate work," Jaensch said. "Being a Goldwater scholar demonstrates to graduate schools that I will be, and already am, a dedicated student and researcher." She received notification of the scholarship during a 10-minute break between two tests and managed to tell everyone she knew before her second test, including her parents.

"I didn't stop smiling the whole day," she said.

Ostdiek, a junior biological systems engineering major, said having four Goldwater scholars speaks highly of the opportunities available at UNL. Like Jaensch, Ostdiek hopes receiving a Goldwater will provide him with more opportunities in the future. He is currently working to design a device for minimally invasive surgery. He is a University Honors Program student and has had a UCARE fellowship with associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering Carl Nelson. Ostdiek said his goal is to work in the research and development department of a medical device design company.

Phillips will attend graduate school after receiving his degree in biological sciences. He will study toward a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology, leading him to a career in research. He said he is interested in research in ecology and evolutionary biology combining theoretical, computational, and empirical approaches. Phillips has had a UCARE fellowship working with assistant professor in biological sciences Chad Brassil, and also was in the University Honors Program.

"I actually learned about winning just before the start of one of our weekly lab meetings," Phillips said. "I had a chance to immediately tell my other lab members, but I decided to wait until the end of the meeting before I told Dr. Brassil. It was very exciting to finally tell him that all of that hard work paid off."

Laura Damuth, UNL's director of fellowships, said: "UNL has always been very strong in the Goldwater competition, but this is the first year that UNL has garnered awards for all of our applicants. We are in the unique position of being one of the four schools in the nation to have the maximum number of winners."

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The Goldwater Foundation seeks students in mathematics or the sciences who display intellectual curiosity and intensity and possess potential for significant future contributions in their chosen field.

— Haley Whisennand, Honors Program