Montana Tech Student Awarded Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship


Montana Technological University undergraduate Katherine Bonsell has been awarded the 2024 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. The award is the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship awarded in the United States for natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering.


As the result of an ongoing partnership with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs (NDEP) and of a new partnership with UWorld, Dr. John Yopp, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, announced that the Trustees of the Goldwater Board will be able to award 438 Goldwater scholarships to college students from across the United States for the 2024-2025 academic year. When these new awards are combined with the second year of support to 70 sophomores who received Goldwater scholarships in 2023, the total will be among the largest number of scholars ever supported in a single year. The 2024 awards bring the number of scholarships awarded since 1989 by the Goldwater Foundation to 10,720.

“We’re excited to celebrate Katherine and this recognition,” said Chancellor Les Cook. “Earning a Goldwater Scholarship is an extraordinary achievement, and we couldn’t be prouder. Katherine is an incredibly bright, driven, and focused student. She exemplifies all that is good in higher education, and this honor is well-deserved recognition of this.”

“The Department of Defense’s continued partnership with the Goldwater Foundation ensures we are supporting the development of scientific talent essential to maintaining our Nation’s competitive advantage,” said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Science and Technology Foundations, who oversees the NDEP program.

“UWorld is pleased to have the opportunity to partner with the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation this year to support undergraduates interested in pursuing medical research careers,” said Chandra S. Pemmasani, MD, founder and CEO of UWorld. “We are committed to providing the financial resources and test preparation materials these students will need to excel and be able to contribute pioneering advances in medicine that will improve the lives of individuals in the U.S. and around the world.”

From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1,353 science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 446 academic institutions to compete for the 2024 Goldwater scholarships.  Of the students who reported, 188 of the Scholars are men, 236 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Fifty-seven Scholars intend to pursue research careers in mathematics and computer science, 237 in the sciences, 80 in medicine, and 64 in engineering and materials research. An increasing number of the Goldwater Scholars have published their research in leading professional journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences.

Bonsell, a junior from Goleta, California, is a non-traditional transfer student majoring in Geological Engineering. Her research is focused on investigating the direction of groundwater flow in Anaconda, MT. She is conducting her current research under the mentorship of Dr. Xiaobing Zhou.

"I am honored to be a Goldwater Scholarship recipient and feel inspired to pursue a career in research,” noted Bonsell. “I want to thank the Montana Tech National Student Awards Committee for guiding and encouraging me through the application process. I also want to thank my mentors and teachers here at Montana Tech, especially Dr. Mary MacLaughlin, Dr. Xiaobing Zhou, and Dr. Glenn Shaw. It feels extremely encouraging to win this scholarship as a non-traditional transfer student in my first year at Montana Tech and I am proud of what I have accomplished. I also extend my gratitude to past mentors: Dr. Brett M. Carpenter at the University of Oklahoma who guided me through my first research project this past summer, and Dr. Stephanie Mendes who was integral in my development as a student leader in earth science at Santa Barbara City College. "

Goldwater Scholars have gone on to win an impressive array of prestigious awards, becoming National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellows, NSF Graduate Research Fellows, Hertz Fellows, DOE Computational Science Graduate Fellows, Astronaut Scholars, Churchill Scholars, Marshall Scholars, and Rhodes Scholars.

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 identify, encourage, and financially support outstanding undergraduates interested in pursuing research careers in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

Montana Tech nominated four students for the 2024 award. The nominees were Bonsell, Abigail Clark, Ethan Heggem, and Jakob Nielsen. In total, Montana Tech has had 12 students receive the Goldwater, plus five honorable mentions: Alyssa Plant (2023), Koby Martin (2023), 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).

The Montana Tech National Student Awards Committee (NSAC) is chaired by Leslie Dickerson, executive director of enrollment and admissions. Committee members include Anne Kish, Goldwater Institutional Representative; Marisa Pedulla; Rick LaDouceur; Mary MacLaughlin, Goldwater reviewer; Michelle Morley, Stacey Corbitt, and Felicia Karas. Montana Tech’s NSAC has supported 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. Longtime member, Dr. Marisa Pedulla credits Montana Tech students’ numerous awards to their abilities and dedicated work, exceptional faculty mentors, and supportive National Student Awards members. “Katherine is a wonderful example of the “determined doers” of Montana Tech. We are excited for her recognition as a Goldwater Scholar.”

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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