Jordan Ando ’22 was a ball of anxiety, waiting for the clock to strike noon one day over spring break to hear if he had received a Goldwater Scholarship. Then the notification came early, catching him off guard.
“My immediate reaction at seeing my name followed by their ‘Congratulations!’ was disbelief,” says the engineering and astrophysics special major from San Jose, Calif. “I read the email a few times to make sure it actually said what I thought it said, and that feeling of disbelief morphed into one of happiness and relief.”
Sarah Weinshel ’22, who received word of her scholarship while doing some outdoor artwork on campus, had a similar reaction.
“I had to read over the email a few times to really believe it,” says the honors biology and art history major from Minnetonka, Minn. “I felt honored and excited to have my research and career goals validated and to become part of a community of accomplished researchers and scientists. I think I first called my mother to share the news and then found some friends to share in my excitement.”
Ando, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in planetary science, and Weinshel, who seeks to connect cellular and molecular biology with medicine through an M.D./Ph.D., join this year’s class of 409 Goldwater Scholars from across the country. The Goldwater Foundation, which chose its scholars from a pool of about 5,000 applicants, provides funding to sophomores and juniors interested in research careers in engineering, the natural sciences, and mathematics.
The Goldwater has been the preeminent award of its kind in these fields for three decades, and the foundation recently partnered with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Program to help ensure the U.S. “develops the scientific talent it needs to maintain its global competitiveness and security.”
Ando is eager to return to Swarthmore’s classrooms and labs this fall, after a year and a half of remote learning. In particular, he’s excited about working on his Engineering 90 project and his senior comps for astrophysics “as one last hurrah” before switching gears to a Ph.D. program.
“A lot of skills I’ve developed at Swarthmore — in problem-solving, computation, and general research methodologies — have really been useful in the planetary science research I’ve done off campus with the Lunar and Planetary Institute and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory,” Ando says.
“Being able to start research at Swarthmore as early as freshman/sophomore year allowed me to see which aspects I enjoyed most, giving me valuable in-person experience in experimental physics and engineering research.”
Weinshel will complete the research and writing of her honors thesis on the role of intron retention in the heat shock response of the small flowering plants Arabidopsis, which she began as a first-year student.
“It’s been great to have that continuity throughout my time at Swarthmore,” she says. “Both my previous biology courses and this upcoming thesis writing will prepare me well for a career in research, from the conceptualization of experiments to the interpretation of findings to the writing of results.”
Weinshel also expects to refine her research interests and postgraduation plans next year. She will think about how to best reach her goal of connecting cellular and molecular biology with medicine, whether through an M.D./Ph.D. or a different path.
But she’s also excited to continue exploring other interests at Swarthmore, especially art and art history.
“Swarthmore has allowed me to take courses in and explore a range of disciplines,” she says, “and I know that the insight I have learned in courses in art history, anthropology, physics, chemistry, and more will all contribute to my ability to effectively problem-solve, work with interdisciplinary teams, and more broadly connect scientific research to society in my career as a physician scientist.”