By Paula Ann Solis
A Baylor senior is joining an elite group of students who received one of the highest honors in collegiate science.
Tiffany Huang, a Fishers, Ind., senior, received an honorable mention from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program in recognition of her pursuance of engineering research.
Huang said her main area of interest is nanotechnology, specifically the field of photonics — a field of study focusing on light. She said she plans to pursue her doctorate and eventually work in an industrial or national laboratory.
The Goldwater Scholarship, initiated by Congress in 1986 in honor of former Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, promotes the advancement of science, math and engineering research. Four-year institutions such as Baylor are allowed to nominate four students each year, chosen by a panel, to be considered at the national level.
Huang heard about the opportunity to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship in September through a campuswide email and said she was skeptical to apply for what she called the most prestigious scholarship in the engineering community.
“I didn’t think I could get it, but I thought I might as well apply and see what happens,” Huang said.
Of the 1,107 students that applied for the scholarship, 271 were awarded a $7,500 scholarship for the 2013–2014 academic year, and 200 students, such as Huang, were recognized with official honorable mentions on March 29.
“I am honored to receive an honorable mention for the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship,” Huang said. “Applying has allowed me to both reflect on my experiences and helped me define my career goals.”
Prior to applying for the Goldwater Scholarship, Huang demonstrated her interest in research as a member of the undergraduate research team for Dr. Jonathan Hu, assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department.
“Dr. Hu is great,” Huang said. “He really helps to get his students involved with research if that’s what they want.”
Dr. Jeffery Olafsen, associate professor of the physics department and Baylor’s Goldwater Scholarship faculty representative, said Huang’s involvement in research prior to applying for the Goldwater is what set her apart from other candidates and is something that future candidates should consider.
“The sooner you get started in undergraduate research, the stronger a candidate you are,” Olafsen said.
Olafsen said only 12 applications were submitted this year to the panel to be considered for the national competition.
“There were a couple of years we weren’t even nominating our set of four, we were only nominating two or three,” Olafsen said. “That was an issue of getting the word out there, making sure students knew about the opportunity.”
Olafsen said he hopes to see not only more applications in the future, but also a stronger presence of undergraduate research at Baylor. Within the physics department, Olafsen said he expects every undergraduate to complete a research project before graduating, which should lead to more Goldwater Scholars at Baylor.
To date, Baylor has had 12 Goldwater Scholars, the first in 1991, said Lucy Decher, the executive administrator for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence In Education Foundation.
Olafsen said his two goals for the future of the program are to have one Goldwater Scholar every year and, one year, have all four Baylor nominees named as Goldwater Scholars.
Students interested in applying for the Goldwater Scholarship next year should visit act.org/goldwater for more information.