ASU honors student awarded Goldwater Scholarship for excellence in STEM
Chloe Leff, a junior in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, has been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious award in the United States for undergraduate researchers in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
The Goldwater Scholarship was established in 1986 by Congress to serve as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. The scholarship helps ensure that the U.S. continues to produce the world’s leading scientists and engineers.
“If you are an undergrad in STEM, the Goldwater Scholarship is the big prize,” said Kyle Mox, associate dean at the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement and the designated campus representative for the Goldwater Scholarship. “In addition to a $7,500 stipend, winning a Goldwater carries immense prestige and positions you for admission to top-tier PhD programs and other major fellowships, like the Rhodes Scholarship, Churchill Scholarship or NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.”
“Receiving the Goldwater Scholarship is a huge honor, not just for the recognition of what I have achieved as an undergraduate, but for the vote of confidence in my abilities to succeed in research,” Leff said. “I want to pursue a career in research, so receiving the Goldwater Scholarship is an added boost of confidence and testament to my capability as a researcher.”
Leff, an Arizona native and graduate of Hamilton High School, is pursuing dual bachelor degrees in biochemistry and molecular bioscience and biotechnology. After graduation, she plans to pursue a PhD in immunology and conduct medical research pertaining to disease treatments, particularly cancer.
Since 2021, she has been a member of the Hariadi Lab in the Biodesign Institute, where she assists with research on the use of DNA nanostructures to decrease the infectivity of viruses. In the summer of 2022, as a participant in the DAAD-RISE program, she worked at Justus-Liebig University in Gießen, Germany, contributing to a project that investigates the impact and mechanism behind two synergistic cancer drugs.
Outside of her research work, she serves as the director of events for the Barrett Sustainability Club, is the president of the Gammage Scholars and plays for the ASU women’s club soccer team.
Although the national submission deadline for the Goldwater Scholarship occurs annually at the end of January, the ASU scholarship office begins the recruitment and advising process in October.
Each college or university may nominate only four students per year to the Goldwater Scholarship, so the scholarship office establishes a preliminary deadline in early December.
“In reality, the most difficult part of the process is receiving a nomination,” Mox said. “We have so many talented, motivated STEM majors at ASU, and there are ample opportunities to get significant undergraduate research here.”
The applications are then reviewed by members of a long-standing faculty nominating committee, who evaluate the candidates’ academic records, research achievements and letters of recommendation.
“I am so grateful to have been one of ASU's nominees,” Leff said. “Having worked in undergraduate research at ASU for nearly two years, it is an honor to be recognized as a high-achieving student by my university and community of scientists. ASU gave me my first opportunities in undergraduate research, so it is a privilege to be able to represent the university in a national competition centered around excellence in STEM.”
The planning, drafting and revision process can be arduous. The Goldwater application requires multiple short essay responses and a three-page research proposal, in which applicants summarize their previous research and describe their future research goals. Throughout the process, applicants seek advice and guidance from the scholship office and their faculty members.
“I found that the application process was a great opportunity to reflect on the reasons why I am so drawn to science and research,” Leff said. “For as long as I can remember, a career in some sort of science was in my future, but having to clearly articulate that passion and clarify how it has transformed into a desire to pursue research specifically encouraged me to recognize how that path reflected my values.”
Over the past decade, 21 Sun Devils have been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, ranking ASU alongside Duke and Princeton and ahead of Northwestern and UC-Berkeley. In the 2023 application cycle, 413 Goldwater Scholarships were awarded from a national pool of over 5,000 applicants. More than 400 colleges and universities submitted nominees.
Story submitted by the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement