Mercer has produced nine Goldwater Scholars since the 2012-2013 academic year, an unusual accomplishment for an institution with Mercer’s size of undergraduate student body.
The one- and two-year scholarships, awarded to undergraduate sophomores and juniors, cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious postgraduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 92 Rhodes Scholarships, 137 Marshall Awards, 159 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships, such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.
Amanda Cimino, Charlotte Dungan and Brady Simon each received a 2019-2020 scholarship from a field of 1,223 natural science, engineering and mathematics students nationwide. It marks the first time three Mercer students were named recipients in a single year and makes the University one of the state’s leading producers of Goldwater Scholars.
Cimino, from Flowery Branch, conducts research in the lab of Dr. Joanna Thomas involving drug-releasing polymers. She is double-majoring in biomedical engineering and biochemistry and molecular biology and plans to obtain a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and conduct research in the field of regenerative medicine. She has participated in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in biomedical engineering and presented her research at venues such as the 50th annual meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the 24th annual Regenerative Medicine Workshop. She participated in a Mercer On Mission trip to Peru and is a member of the Engineering Scholars Track of the University Honors Program, Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi honor societies and the Society of Women Engineers.
Dungan, from Marietta, conducts research in the lab of Dr. Michael MacCarthy incorporating new and cost-effective technologies to access clean drinking water in developing nations. During her Mercer On Mission trip to the Dominican Republic, she served as water quality lead for mountain hydrology research. The environmental engineering major also participated in an NSF REU to Stanford University as part of the ReNUWIt (Re-Inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure) Program. She was selected the University’s first Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholar by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is a Stamps Scholar and member of Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies, and has earned President’s List and Dean’s List recognition. Dungan plans to earn a Ph.D. in water resource engineering and conduct research related to water quality, hydrology and hydraulics.
Simon, from Rome, conducts research in the lab of Dr. Makhin Thitsa involving the development of control systems for lasers. He plans to earn a Ph.D. in computer engineering and develop data-driven control strategies as a computationally-oriented control researcher. The computer engineering major has participated in a U.S. Army Research Laboratory summer internship working with erbium-doped laser fibers to determine feasibility as a laser component, published two peer-reviewed research articles, and he will attend this summer’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in San Jose, California. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi honor society and has earned President’s List and Dean’s List recognition.
Kyla Semmendinger, a 2018 graduate from Bremen, and Runyu Cai, of Macon, each received 2016-2017 scholarships based on academic merit from a field of 1,286 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by the faculties of 470 colleges and universities nationwide. They were the University’s first pair of Goldwater Scholars in a single year.
Semmendinger, who majored in environmental engineering with minors in Spanish, chemistry and engineering for development, conducted research in the labs of Dr. Laura Lackey, professor of environmental engineering, and Dr. Michael MacCarthy, assistant professor of environmental engineering. Semmendinger was instrumental in the success of a 2015 Mercer On Mission trip to Kenya that focused on monitoring the efficacy of using biosand filters to treat water for drinking, has been a key member of Mercer’s Engineering for Development Research Team and has conducted research related to low-cost shallow geothermal heating and cooling systems for households in Central Georgia. She planned to obtain a Ph.D. in environmental engineering with a research focus in the relationship between hydrology and forestry, specifically in developing nations.
Cai, a double-major in electrical engineering and physics and originally from Weihai, Shandong, China, made significant contributions to the lab of Dr. Makhin Thitsa, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, including devising a method to apply nonlinear control to modulate 550-nanometer laser emission, which is the key wavelength of interest for underwater communication without frequency chirping, and developing a method to eliminate crosstalk in semiconductor optical amplifiers using nonlinear state feedback control. He planned to obtain doctoral degrees in both electrical engineering and physics, teach at the university level and conduct research in nonlinear control and theoretical physics.
Zechariah Rice, a 2018 graduate from Newberry, Florida, received a 2015-2016 scholarship based on academic merit from a field of 1,150 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.
Rice, who majored in electrical engineering and minored in Christianity and computer science, worked in the lab of Dr. Makhin Thitsa, where he derived the nonlinear feedback control law for controlling a passively Q-switched pulsed laser system. Rice planned to obtain a Ph.D. in electrical engineering with a focus in non-linear controls, and to conduct research and teach at the university level.
Kaydren Orcutt, a 2017 graduate from Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, received a 2014-2015 scholarship based on academic merit from a field of 1,206 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.
Orcutt, who majored in chemistry and Spanish, worked in the lab of Dr. Kathryn Kloepper, where she utilized analytical chemistry to investigate better ways to clean up oil spills. Specifically, this research pertained to biosurfactants, which are naturally produced, soap-like molecules that enable water and oils to mix. She was accepted into a Ph.D. program at the University of California-Berkeley.
Kirsten Brown, a 2016 graduate from Tallahassee, Florida, received a 2013-2014 scholarship based on academic merit from a field of 1,166 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.
Brown, a chemistry and computational science double-major, worked in the lab of Dr. Garland Crawford, assistant professor of chemistry, to investigate a hexosaminidase enzyme known as OGA. She brought a unique computational approach to the research as she attempted to determine how computers might be used to predict alterations to the enzyme that may increase or decrease interactions between a target and that particular enzyme. She was accepted into a Ph.D. program at Emory University.
Aaron Featherston, a 2014 graduate from Byron, received a 2012-2013 scholarship based on academic merit from a field of 1,107 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.
Featherston, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, worked in the lab of Dr. David Goode, associate professor of chemistry, on the synthesis of a natural product isolated from a sea sponge that may one day serve as the basis for a new class of antibiotics. He was accepted into a Ph.D. program at Yale University.
The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on Nov. 14, 1986. The scholarship program, honoring Sen. Barry Goldwater, was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering, and is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. Since its first award in 1989, the Foundation has bestowed 7,921 scholarships worth approximately $63 million.