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April 9, 2013

Photo of Drexel's Goldwater scholars
Goldwater Scholarship recipients: Andrew Zigerelli, Alex Sevit, Rishon Benjamin and Emily Buck

History was made when all four of Drexel University’s Goldwater Scholarship applicants were named recipients of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship on April 1. Alex Sevit, Emily Buck, Rishon Benjamin and Andrew Zigerelli were among the total 271 undergraduate students in math and science fields who won the scholarship from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.

The nation’s colleges and universities were allowed to nominate up to four scholars for the scholarship. The other three universities besides Drexel to have all four applicants named Goldwater scholars are Rice University, Hendrix College and Montana State University.

“Goldwater is an award that plays to Drexel's strengths and aspirations,” said Rona Buchalter, director of the Drexel Fellowships Office. “As we've expanded our undergraduate research opportunities, especially the STAR program, we've helped make it possible for our students to be really competitive for national awards like Goldwater that emphasize high-level undergraduate research.”

The Drexel students first had to compete in an internal competition to secure one of the University’s four top spots. After securing their nominations, the students had to complete a full application for the Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.

“Writing all the essays associated with the application spurned a lot of reflection and I grew a lot from the process,” said Sevit, who is studying biomedical engineering. Sevit hopes to continue the research he started with his advisor Dr. Steven Kurtz, a research associate professor in Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, on finding the best ways to prevent patient infections from orthopedic implants. He plans on earning a Ph.D. in biomaterials and tissue engineering to study organ regeneration and teach at the university level.

Zigerelli, who is pursing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, also aspires to teach at the university level. His goal is to research computational mathematics and also earn a Ph.D. in mathematics.

“This scholarship is a testament to the student's interest and passion for research,” said Benjamin, a chemical engineering student. Benjamin hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering to work on developing cleaner and efficient alternate energy sources. 

Benjamin worked as a STAR scholar during his first year at Drexel for his eventual Goldwater advisor, Dr. Yossef Elabd, an associate professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering, much like how Buck first started her research with Dr. Caroline Schauer, an associate professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering. Buck, who is pursing a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering, plans to earn a Ph.D. and continue her work in polymer science by creating devices to improve water filtration.

“I think the 4/4 acceptance rate says, of course, that Drexel is pursuing good, relevant research,” said Buck. “But more importantly, it tells us that the institution is properly preparing those who are interested in research for their future career.”

The Drexel Goldwater students came from Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, and School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems.

“This shows us that there are terrific students, mentored by caring faculty, all around the university,” said Buchalter.

Before this year’s round of students, Drexel had a total of five Goldwater Scholars. The first Drexel Goldwater Scholar was accepted in 2008. Past Goldwater Scholars have gone on to win other prestigious scholarships, work at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, and pursue degrees at Harvard University, Columbia University and Washington University St. Louis.

The Goldwater Scholarship was established by Congress in 1986 to provide the country’s top undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering and math with the means necessary to pursue careers in these fields.


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Alissa Falcone