Record-breaking class of honorees awarded for excellence in STEM studies and research
March 31, 2022 By
For the first time at the University of Mississippi, three students have been awarded Goldwater Scholarships in a single year.
Ethan Lambert, of Corinth; Reinhard “Matt” Knerr, of Paducah, Kentucky; and Alexandria “Ally” Watrous, of Lexington, Kentucky, all members of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, have become the university’s 19th, 20th and 21st winners.
The Goldwater is one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. It supports exceptional sophomores and juniors who show promise in becoming the next generation of research leaders in these fields.
This year, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awarded 417 scholarships from a pool of 1,242 outstanding undergraduates nominated by 433 institutions.
“Ethan, Matt and Ally have all presented an incredible commitment to a career in research, and a genuine display of intellectual curiosity,” said Vivian Ibrahim, director of the UM Office of National Scholarship Advisement. “This is the first time UM has had three Goldwater scholars. We couldn’t be more excited for them.”
In recent years, the office has had steady success in recruiting competitive students for the Goldwater, Ibrahim said.
Knerr, Lambert and Watrous follow in the footsteps of Ole Miss Goldwater scholars Ivy Li and Austin Wallace in 2021, William Meador and Jax Dallas in 2020, and Addison Roush in 2019.
An Annexstad scholar, Lambert is set to graduate in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with an emphasis in chemical physics and a minor in mathematics.
“I am thrilled to be named a Goldwater Scholar but this accomplishment would not have been possible without the incredible people around me in the lab,” he said. “They taught me new techniques, proofread and answered my questions at 2 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep.
“I would be a fraction of the person I am without them around me.”
Lambert hopes to apply for a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation next year to fund a doctorate in chemistry with a focus on studying how to use light to induce electron transfers between small molecules. This work has potential real-world applications in solar energy conversion.
Already first author on three published research papers and co-author of a book, Lambert has been working with Nathan Hammer, UM professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
“It has been a joy mentoring Ethan in the lab,” Hammer said. “He truly has the love for science and the aptitude for research. I expect great things from him for the remainder of his time with us at UM and beyond.”
Knerr is a Stamps scholar who is pursuing a degree in biochemistry, with minors in neuroscience, biological sciences, environmental studies and psychology.
“I am fascinated by aging,” he said. “My time abroad – in Spain, Costa Rica and the Netherlands – has really shed light on different ways to approach how we age.
“In the future, I want to be able to look at aging from a scientific angle as well as a moral and humanistic one.”
Knerr has four published articles and has worked Joshua Bloomekatz, an assistant professor of biology.
“Matt is a dynamic student with a passion for research, who shows great promise as a physician scientist,” Bloomekatz said.
Watrous is the only Ole Miss sophomore to be awarded a Goldwater, which will provide funding for her junior and senior years at the university. She is pursuing bachelor’s degrees in chemistry with a chemical physics emphasis, in physics and in German with minors in French and mathematics.
In the long term, Watrous is interested in collaborating internationally while conducting research in computational chemistry.
“The whole national scholarship and Goldwater process reaffirmed that grad school is something I want to do and can achieve,” she said.
Watrous has three peer-reviewed papers and one cover article to date as part of the UM Computational Astrochemistry Group, headed by Ryan Fortenberry, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
“Ally is an absolute joy to have in our group, and I count myself lucky to be on her team through her education,” Fortenberry said. “Most often, about the time that students get trained, they leave. However, she’ll be around for a few more years, and I look forward to continuing my collaboration with her.”
For more information on the Goldwater Scholarships and how to apply for them, contact the Office of National Scholarship Advisement at firstname.lastname@example.org.