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Two Creighton students named 2023 Goldwater Scholars

Apr 10, 2023
5 min Read
Goldwater Scholars photo

Creighton University’s standing as the No. 1 Goldwater Scholar-producing Catholic university continued in March as two more students captured the prestigious awards for 2023.

The awards were granted to: 

The federally funded Goldwater Scholarship program is one of the nation’s most distinguished academic awards for young scientists. This year, 413 students from across the United States were selected to receive the award from a pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors.   

During the past 19 years, Creighton has led all Catholic universities as a recipient of Goldwater honors. 

“The Goldwater is one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the United States,” says Erin Gross, PhD, professor of chemistry and biochemistry in Creighton’s College of Arts and Sciences “The fact that Creighton students have been so successful demonstrates not only the academic strength of our students but also both university and faculty commitment to the success of students in research.” 

Creighton’s institutional support for undergraduate research opens important doors, Gross says, and winning a Goldwater provides opportunities for students to attend some of the most prestigious graduate programs in the world. 

Diers, from Fremont, Nebraska, said his research into restoring and regenerating hearing loss greatly assisted his Goldwater application, as did the support he received at Creighton.

Diers works in the laboratory of faculty member Jian Zuo, PhD, and notes none of this would have been possible without him and without the help of some amazing and brilliant individuals — Sarath Vijayakumar, PhD; Marisa Zallocchi, PhD; June Li, research lab manager; and Litao Tao, PhD. "I just have to give them a shout out,” he says.

In the wake of all that support, Diers is thinking big.

“I plan to pursue a PhD in developmental biology and continue exploring my love for regeneration,” he says. “Research at Creighton has been a transformational experience for me. Through research, I discovered my passion for developmental biology and the fundamental need for academic research in the advance of science and medicine.”

Olivia Nicholson, from Dexter, Iowa, plans to pursue a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences and to conduct research in a government or industry lab focusing on drug or vaccine development. 

“I have been conducting research in Dr. Lynne Dieckman's lab since the first semester of my freshman year,” she says. “This research experience has been invaluable to my growth as a scientist and person.”

That Creighton students have been so successful demonstrates not only the academic strength of our students but also university and faculty commitment to the success of students in research.
— Erin Gross, PhD

Gross, the campus representative for the Goldwater program, says the University works diligently to give its students an edge in the highly competitive program. 

A Goldwater scholar is supported up to a maximum of $7,500 per full academic year. Sophomores are supported for a maximum of two years or until graduation, while juniors are supported for a maximum of one year or until graduation.

Just applying demonstrates persistence.

“At the time of receiving the scholarship, students have already put in long hours in the lab and preparing their applications,” Gross says. “Creighton can nominate up to four students annually. The application and selection process involves working with the Goldwater campus representative and a committee of math and science faculty who serve as a mock review panel” – a committee that includes a representative of Creighton’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.

It is a vigorous, intentional process, and as such is very Creighton.

“This process aligns with Creighton’s Jesuit values as it involves much discernment as students consider their career paths and discuss this with their research mentor and committee members,” Gross says.

The scholarships are awarded by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, named for the five-term U.S. senator from Arizona and presidential candidate. Awarded in partnership with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Program, this year’s winners included students selected from 1,267 nominees in the fields of natural science, engineering and mathematics. Students were nominated by 427 academic institutions.