Two Montana Tech Students Awarded Prestigious Goldwater Scholarships


Montana Technological University undergraduates Alyssa Plant and Koby Martin have been awarded the 2023 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. The award is the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship awarded in America's natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

Four hundred thirteen college students from across the United States were awarded the 2023-2024 Goldwater Scholarship. With the 2023 awards, the number of scholarships awarded since 1989 by the Goldwater Foundation is at 10,283.

Plant, a junior from Helena, Montana, majoring in Environmental Engineering, is mentored by Dr. Raja Nagisetty, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering, and Montana Tech Alumna and graduate student Richelle Carney. Her research is focused on the applications of drone-based imagery in water quality, aquatic species health, and mine waste reuse. After completing her degree programs, Alyssa plans to pursue a doctorate in Environmental Engineering.


Professor Kumar Ganesan added, "On behalf of the Environmental Engineering Department, I congratulate Alyssa on receiving the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for 2023. Scholars like Alyssa are the future of our nation who are bold, innovative, and able to solve complex environmental problems to benefit the current and future generations. We wish Alyssa the best."

"I am extremely honored and grateful to receive this award. I want to thank everyone who supported my endeavors as a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship applicant," noted Ms. Plant. "Montana Tech and the National Student Awards Committee helped make this opportunity possible. I would also like to thank Dr. Nagisetty, Richelle Carney, and Jeremy Crowley for research guidance and Dr. Ganesan, Dr. Glenn Shaw, Dr. Robin Bullock, and my family for supporting me through the application process. Through my research and education at Montana Tech, I have developed a deep respect for our natural waterbodies and the species that inhabit them, and I intend to work to protect these habitats."

Martin, a junior majoring in Civil Engineering, is mentored by Bret Robertson, Liping Jiang, and Jessica Daignault, and focuses on developing sustainable building materials, particularly concrete, using widely available biomaterials. This research is aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of building practices worldwide.

Koby plans to expand his research to investigate sustainable practices within civil engineering further. Topics on sustainability in engineering will form the foundation of a future M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in civil engineering while contributing towards his goals of becoming a leading researcher and professor in Civil Engineering investigating sustainability and resiliency.

Dr. Robertson noted, "This is a great honor for Montana Technological University and our high-quality students. Koby has a relentless work ethic and dedication to civil engineering, I believe he will advance our industry in numerous ways."

Dr. Liping Jiang added, "On behalf of the Civil Engineering Department, I congratulate Koby on receiving the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for 2023. Koby is a hard-working and self-motivated student, he is our top student who does well in his coursework, is active in student clubs, and is also engaged in undergraduate and graduate-level research projects. I believe he will continue his good work and become an excellent researcher and engineer."

Martin said, "I am incredibly honored and grateful to be a Goldwater Scholar. This achievement recognizes my determination and hard work and will propel me into the industry as I finish my education. I want to thank the Montana Tech National Student Awards committee for their effort and dedication during this process. Montana Tech has become a family to me; without the support of my wife, the guidance of my mentors Bret Robertson and Liping Jiang, and the help of my peers, I would not be where I am today. I plan to take what I have learned from this family and make a lasting impact on the world through my work in sustainability and infrastructure.


Koby was born and raised in Helena, Montana, before moving to Butte with his wife. He enrolled at Montana Tech as a transfer student and hopes his story illustrates that non-traditional students from disadvantaged backgrounds can excel in academia.

Dr. Kenneth Lee, Dean of the School of Mines and Engineering, commented, "Congratulations to Alyssa and Koby! The School of Mines and Engineering is proud of you for getting the most prestigious scholarship in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering fields."

Montana Tech Chancellor Dr. Les Cook added, "Earning a Goldwater Scholarship is an incredible achievement, and we couldn't be more proud of Alyssa and Koby. They represent the best of Montana Tech and bring distinction and an immense sense of accomplishment to the entire University. It's not unusual for Montana Tech to have one Goldwater in any given year; having two is phenomenal. These students are the epitome of all good about working in higher education, and this recognition is well deserved."

Montana Tech Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Angela Lueking, added, “Congratulations to Alyssa and Kobe! We are proud to have them in our community, and are proud of what this award represents—this national recognition is an indication of the strong support our undergraduate students get to work on meaningful problems and due impactful work.  Congratulations to all nominees, as they also embody the spirit of Montana Tech”

From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1267 natural science, engineering, and mathematics students were nominated by 427 academic institutions to compete for the 2023 Goldwater scholarships. Of the students who reported, 197 of the Scholars are men, 203 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Forty-eight Scholars are mathematics and computer science majors, 308 are majoring in the natural sciences, and 57 are majoring in engineering. Many scholars have published their research in leading professional journals and presented their work at professional society conferences. The Goldwater Foundation is able to support this number of scholarships because of a collaboration with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Program and additional support from Congress.

The one and two-year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Goldwater Scholars have won an impressive array of prestigious post-graduate fellowships, among which are the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, Rhodes Scholarship, Marshall Scholarship, Churchill Scholarship, Hertz Fellowship, DOE Computation Science Graduate Fellowship, and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

Montana Tech nominated four students for the 2023 award. The nominees were Plant, Martin, Ethan Heggem, and Katelyn Rapp. Plant and Martin join the following Montana Tech students who received the Goldwater Award or Honorable Mention: Baylie Phillips (2022), Frankie Johnston (2021), Kathryn Bozer (2020), Brent Sordo (2018), Levin Mullaney (2018, Honorable Mention), Molly Brockway (2016), Macy Ricketts (2015 Honorable Mention), Jordan Leone (2014, Honorable Mention), Ryan Hensleigh (2014, Honorable Mention), Joe Mitzel (2013), Robert Hark (2012), Chris Dienes (2007), Calley Jones (2000), and Ariane Erickson (2011, Honorable Mention).

Dr. Marisa Pedulla chairs Montana Tech's National Student Awards Committee (NSAC), supporting Montana Tech students for major national and international scholarships. Founded in 2006, NSAC's mission is to create a campus community that fosters and supports outstanding Montana Tech students throughout their education and to nominate and assist top students in preparing applications for prestigious National Awards. "The NSAC comprises talented and dedicated faculty and staff helping Montana Tech's outstanding undergraduates realize their potential and be recognized for their accomplishments. Working with these students and NSAC members has been a tremendously rewarding endeavor," explained Pedulla. "It's exciting and motivating to work closely with the student nominees and dedicated committee members in preparing applications. Alyssa and Koby's recognition by the Goldwater Foundation is incredible for them and the entire Montana Tech community. It recognizes their abilities and accomplishments and is also a testament to the mentorship provided by their mentors and our campus's support."

Many Montana Tech students have previously received other prestigious awards and recognition. Three Montana Tech students, Baylie Phillips (2022), Casey Clark (2011), and Jack Stratton (2009) were selected as finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship. Montana Tech 2010 chemistry alum Cory Sonnemann, who graduated from Pacific Northwest University College of Osteopathic Medicine, won a National Health Service Corps Scholarship. Katie Tabaracci, Joe Mitzel, and Ivan Sljivar, all Montana Tech alums, won the NAIA Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award.

Former Montana Tech Chancellor Dr. W. Franklin Gilmore served as President of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation from 2012 to 2015. The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on November 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award in these fields.

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