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2 ASU juniors awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for excellence in STEM research

April 09, 2024

The Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement has announced that Arizona State University juniors Leslie Bustamante Hernandez and Timothy Chase have been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious award in the United States for undergraduate researchers in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.

“For STEM students, the Goldwater Scholarship is the most prestigious national scholarship available,” said Kyle Mox, associate dean for national scholarships and the designated campus representative for the Goldwater Scholarship. “The recognition and validation that the award provides dramatically increases your likelihood of admission to a top-tier PhD program, not to mention increased competitiveness for other major fellowships, like the Rhodes Scholarship, Churchill Scholarship or NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.”

Portrait of Leslie Bustamante Hernandez.
Leslie Bustamante Hernandez

A double major in biochemistry and biological sciences, Bustamante Hernandez studies the role of inflammation in mental health and intends to pursue a PhD in immunology.

“I view being selected as a Goldwater Scholar as a representation of my commitment to succeed in research and ensure that future scientists also have the opportunity to innovate and make their mark on science,” she said.

Being awarded a Goldwater Scholarship is especially edifying for Bustamante Hernandez, who as a younger student was uncertain that she’d even be able to attend college, much less engage in high-level research.

“As a Latina and a first-generation student, I was even uncertain of having the possibility to pursue higher education,” she said. “To have my undergraduate achievements being recognized at this level means a lot, not just for myself, but for my family’s effort as well.”

Shortly after arriving at ASU, Bustamante Hernandez joined a research group led by Assistant Professor Esther Borges Florsheim in the School of Life Sciences that studied the relationship between inflammatory responses and other physiological processes, including behavior.

Bustamante Hernandez is currently conducting research on a project that examines the sex-dependent relationship between allergic inflammation to neurobehavioral responses, such as anxiety and depression. This summer, she will travel to Berlin, Germany, where she will continue her research in immunology as a participant in the DAAD-RISE program.

Outside of her research activities, Bustamante Hernandez has served as vice president for the Bridges International Club at ASU, which brings together international students and U.S. students for English conversation practice, practical help with living in America and social activities. Additionally, Bustamante Hernandez is an officer for the Women in Biochemistry Club.

Portrait of Timothy Chase.
Timothy Chase

Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, Timothy Chase is a chemical engineering major who aspires to a career in sustainability-focused polymer research.

“This award has provided me with the opportunity to explore graduate programs I had not thought were possible for me to attend prior,” said Chase, who is a student in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU.

After observing the effects of climate change and pollution in his own community, Chase was motivated to work toward solutions for climate change. He was drawn to ASU because of the university's substantial emphasis on sustainability.

Chase's long-term goal is to improve the efficiency of plastic recycling. He has been involved in undergraduate research through the lab of Professor David Nielsen, where he researched degradable plastics, and in the summer of 2022, Chase participated in a collaborative research project with the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan, where he assisted in the development of biodegradable 3D-printable polymers in an effort to provide an alternative to single-use syringes. In the summer of 2023, he traveled to the Freiburg Material Research Center in Germany, where he participated in research on bio-based resins for use in 3D printing applications, with funding from the DAAD-RISE program. 

Currently, he conducts research under Professor Timothy Long on depolymerizable supramolecular polyethylene, and recently presented his findings at the American Chemical Society spring meeting in New Orleans. Additionally, as part of a collaborative project between Long's lab and Assistant Professor Christopher Muhich’s research group, he is studying the most effective polymers for use in 3D printing.

Outside of his research work, he is a member of the Next Generation Service Corps (NGSC), through which he will earn a certificate in cross-sector leadership. As a leader in NGSC, he organized a  “Women in STEM Banquet” to promote and encourage young women’s pursuit of research careers in STEM.

Given its immense prestige and competitiveness, the application process for the Goldwater Scholarship is challenging and long, "but a very rewarding experience,” according to Bustamante Hernandez.

Chase agrees that the application process itself is a valuable experience.

“(It) reaffirmed my passion for chemical engineering,” he said.

Over the past decade, 20 ASU undergraduates have been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, ranking ASU ahead of Northwestern, the University of Texas, Michigan State and the University of Iowa. In the 2024 application cycle, 438 Goldwater Scholarships were awarded from a national pool of over 5,000 applicants. Over 440 colleges and universities sent forth nominees.

The next application cycle for the Goldwater Scholarship will open in September. Prospective applicants are encouraged to reach out to the Office of National Scholarships Advisement for guidance.

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