Ponte Vedra native named Goldwater Scholar at College of Charleston


Ponte Vedra native and College of Charleston student Alexandra Schwartz was recently named a Goldwater Scholar, one of the nation’s highest honors for undergraduates studying science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

The biochemistry major was one of three students honored by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation for their studies, joined by chemistry majors John Cobb and Alyssa Johnson. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, room and board and textbooks up to $7,500.

Schwartz, an honors college student, plans to pursue a doctorate in cellular and molecular biology and to conduct research to add to the understanding of brain chemistry and drug development.

“Since I started doing research over a year ago, I have gained vital experience in the lab and as a scientist,” she said. “Because of my research, I have changed my future plans to become a scientist and get a Ph.D. in a similar field. I feel passionate about my research, and I suspect that came through in my progress and writing.”

The College of Charleston is one of three universities in South Carolina with Goldwater Scholars this year. The college has produced several Goldwater Scholars in the last several years, including one each year from 2014-2016. In 2013, two students received the honor. Two of those recent honorees were also from the chemistry department.

“Like all Goldwater Scholars, Alyssa, Alexandra, and John are distinguished by extraordinary academic accomplishments, impressive and productive research engagements, and remarkable potential for making real contributions in their respective fields,” said Anton Vander Zee, assistant professor of English and director of the college’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards. “What makes their applications stand out, however, was how effectively they were able to sketch out the big questions that drive their research, and how earnestly they presented themselves as accomplished researchers and engaged scholar-citizens.”

Professor Pamela Riggs-Gelasco, the chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said that having three Goldwater Scholars in chemistry is testimony to decades of dedication to creating and sustaining an environment where undergraduates can thrive in research. The careful mentoring from professors, advisors, research mentors and others, she said, has helped prepare students to be competitive for other national awards.

“Our philosophy is that research is not just about generating new science, it is equally about generating new scientists,” she said. “That student-centered focus is in part why our students are successful, and it is what we try to emphasize to prospective students.”

Like the majority of this year’s Goldwater Scholars, all three students plan to pursue terminal degrees in their fields with hopes of conducting research.

The Goldwater Foundation was endowed in 1986 in honor of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater and is aimed at fostering and encouraging outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields, and nearly 8,000 students have been awarded approximately $63 million in awards since 1989.