Workshop for Goldwater Scholarship on the horizon

Linda Nguyen
Staff Writer

Gold medal. Gold star. Gold… water?

Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship workshops are being held from 5 to 6 p.m. Sept. 25 and Oct. 16 in the C206 Baylor Sciences Building.

Students interested in applying for the Goldwater scholarship should attend, but attendance is not mandatory.

Students attending these workshops will be given information about the application process for the Goldwater Scholarship and have the opportunity to ask questions about the process.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is a research scholarship awarded to undergraduate sophomores and juniors in college for excellence in academics and research.

Dr. Jeffrey Olafsen, Baylor’s Goldwater representative and associate professor of physics, said he believes the scholarship is unique because it emphasizes fields in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“Usually things like Fulbrights are more broad. This one is geared specifically towards students in STEM fields,” Olafsen said.

Schools are allowed to nominate a maximum of four Goldwater nominees each year. Baylor holds an internal competition to determine the national nominees.

These students then compete with students across all universities in the United States, including schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

The deadline for Baylor students to apply for nomination is Nov. 16, and the deadline for the national competition is January 2013.

Last April, Wichita, Kan., senior Taylor Kohn was awarded the scholarship along with 281 other students from universities across the United States.

Now he’s encouraging other students to follow his lead and bring Baylor closer to its goal of becoming a premier research university.

“We’re very excited and very proud of Taylor. He’s a bright, self-motivated student,” Olafsen

“I applied last year,” Kohn said. “I had quite an extensive background in undergraduate research in biology and biochemistry and, with the help of Dr. Olafsen, I was guided through the Goldwater application process. They worked with me to perfect my application. I submitted it and then I had to wait.”

“You’re not just competing against Baylor students,” Olafsen said. “Taylor was competing with students at MIT, Stanford, insert name of any prestigious research school.”

Kohn said he is excited to have received the scholarship.

“All medical and graduate schools know what a Goldwater is,” Kohn said. “It says ‘I am a competitive researcher and qualified applicant.’”

Kohn is also the president of a new research-oriented organization called Baylor Undergraduate Research in Science and Technology (BURST).

“BURST really serves as a unique opportunity/involvement,” Kohn said. “Administration can get word out to students not just for Goldwater and Fulbright but for summer research opportunities and conferences, call for papers. It is a conduit in order to get these important opportunities so they know what actually is out there.”

BURST is open to all undergraduate students interested in research.

It is geared towards advancing undergraduate research and providing students with information about research opportunities.

Kohn said he hopes that this year more students will apply to the internal Baylor Goldwater competition.

“So hopefully this year, we’ll have more than six people apply,” Kohn said. “Hopefully we’ll have 15 to 20.”

Olafsen also said he hopes more students will apply.

“Students don’t have to have done research,” Olafsen said. “But you have to know what you’re going to do and be able to talk intelligently about what you’re doing and how you see it fitting into your career goals.”

Olafsen said the majority of the students who apply have above a 3.75 GPA and be in engineering or natural science areas like biology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry and some neuroscience research areas.

Students can apply online through the Goldwater site, but all the applicants are reviewed internally by Baylor and the top four are chosen as Goldwater nominees.

“Whoever thinks they’re interested should check out the site or come talk to me,” Olafsen said. “There is no one size fits all for Goldwater. Every case is different.”

Kohn hopes that by informing students of Goldwater earlier, they will be better prepared and less intimidated to apply.

“Hopefully, people will see Goldwater as something that’s winnable even here at Baylor,” Kohn said.