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Two Creighton students named 2022 Goldwater Scholars

Apr 11, 2022
3 min Read
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Goldwater Scholars 2022

Two Creighton University students have been named Goldwater Scholars for 2022, making Creighton the No. 1 Goldwater-producing Catholic university of the past 18 years.  

The student honorees are: 

The federally funded Goldwater Scholarship program is one of the nation’s most distinguished academic awards for young scientists. This year, 417 students from across the United States were selected to receive the award from an initial pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors.  

“It’s a very prestigious scholarship. It’s the kind of thing people keep on their resume for a long time,” says Erin Gross, PhD, professor of chemistry and biochemistry in Creighton’s College of Arts and Sciences and the campus representative for the Goldwater program.  

At Creighton, applications for the awards are reviewed by a committee consisting of faculty from several different STEM disciplines and Creighton’s Center for Undergraduate Research (CURAS), which supports undergraduate research and builds connections between students and faculty. After the applicant pool has been narrowed down, the selected students are assigned faculty mentors from the committee to work with on their applications. 

It’s not just about getting a scholarship to say they got it. It’s about helping our students discern what they’re passionate about.
— Erin Gross, PhD, professor of chemistry and biochemistry

In many ways, Gross says, the Goldwater program aligns with Creighton’s Jesuit, Catholic mission. The process of applying alone, she says, is a rigorous exercise in discernment: applicants must seriously contemplate what kind of career and research interests they plan to explore after finishing their undergraduate studies. 

“It’s not just about getting a scholarship to say they got it,” she says. “It’s about helping our students discern what they’re passionate about.” 

Creighton’s success in the program, she says, is also a ringing endorsement of the opportunities available for students at the University. 

“Creighton prides itself on its education for undergraduates, and, in particular, its undergraduate research,” Gross says. “So, I think it reflects very well on Creighton that we provide students with research opportunities that allow them to be competitive for these scholarships.”  

Sanchez is working with Gwendalyn King, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience, to study the aging brain. The pair are exploring how, as the brain ages, it becomes more susceptible to neurodegenerative disease, paying particularly close attention to the role of a protein called Klotho during the aging process. 

The supportive community here has really been critical to my success and helped me explore new opportunities.
— Presley Kimball

“When I was choosing to come to Creighton, one of the biggest draws for me was the direct, one-on-one mentorship you get with your faculty advisor,” Sanchez says. “That mentorship is, I think, what makes Creighton’s undergraduate research experience unique.” 

Kimball’s research also has a health focus. As a math major, she’s working with faculty mentor Nathan Pennington, PhD, associate professor of mathematics, to use differential equations to track the progression of a tropical skin disease, called yaws, and compare different treatment strategies. 

“Within the math department, I feel that a lot of my professors have been so supportive,” Kimball says. “Before starting this, I wasn’t even planning on doing research originally, but one of my professors reached out and recommended that I try it with one of the other professors. The supportive community here has really been critical to my success and helped me explore new opportunities.”