Grace Newman ‘23 wins Goldwater Fellowship

Ansley Peard, News Writer

Contributed Photo by Grace Newman.

Junior Grace Newman has been named a 2022-2023 Goldwater Scholar by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. The Goldwater Scholarship is designed to support and identify undergraduate sophomores and juniors who show potential as budding leaders and contributors in STEM research. 

Newman’s proposal for the Goldwater Scholarship was based on the research she completed with Professor Jonathan Collins on biocatalysis, which involves using enzymes in bacteria to perform complex chemical reactions. Her proposal is focused on the potential for using biocatalysis as a more environmentally-friendly method for synthesizing specific molecules in drug development. She is aware of how polluting and wasteful drug development can be, and as an Alaskan native, she is all too familiar with the effects of global warming on glaciers melting and oil spills, so protecting nature is something that is important to her.

Newman says that science and math have been her favorite subjects in school since kindergarten. She applied to Whitman because she was intrigued by the BBMB major and the freedom the field of study afforded her. She is able to analyze molecular science from multiple angles—math, chemistry, physics, biology and computer science. After graduating from Whitman, Newman plans on attending graduate school to earn her PhD, where she is interested in doing research that is human-health-related that involves organic chemistry, math or biophysics. 

“Working on the Goldwater application really made me think seriously about pursuing a career in research. Winning the scholarship was definitely a huge validation of the work I have accomplished. With both my research and the Goldwater application I think I’ve learned that I do have the ability to tackle bigger, harder and longer-term projects than I thought I could,Newman wrote in an email to The Wire.

Newman joined Professor Collins’s lab in the spring semester of 2021, but was not able to start working in the lab until the summer due to COVID-19. Professor Collins says it is not only her enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity for STEM that awarded her the Goldwater Scholarship, but her individual intuition and meticulous attention to detail that sets her apart from other applicants.  

“Grace has done a wonderful job of really intellectually owning and really independently working through the lab. It’s wonderful to see official recognition of her accomplishments,” Collins said.

Professor Marcus Juhasz, who became Whitman’s campus representative for the Goldwater in 2012, agrees with Collins.

“Her work is very meticulous, she asks a lot of really probing and thoughtful questions and she generally represents someone who is a few years more advanced than where she actually is. She really resembles a graduate student with the kinds of things she’s thinking about already, which is pretty remarkable at this stage.”

Newman began the application process in October 2021 and was one of four applicants from Whitman nominated to submit their work to the Goldwater committee in late January 2022. She advises those who seek to pursue the Goldwater Scholarship to start working on the application early, as the process is extensive. She also recommends having a variety of people in different backgrounds read the application and give feedback.

Dr. Jess Hernandez is the Director of Fellowships and Grants at Whitman College and helps guide students through the application process. She notes that the scholarship will also benefit recipients in future graduate research programs.

“It helps them get into the habit of writing these scholarship proposals that you are not really trained to do in an undergraduate classroom, it’s a skill they have to build early on,” Hernandez said in an interview with The Wire.

Professor Collins encourages other students to apply to scholarships, saying he sees many students across all areas of study who have the potential to be recognized and rewarded for their extraordinary work in academic research.

“I feel like it flies under the radar a little bit. (…) I think there’s a lot of other really great students that should be applying to these fellowships. Grace is a great example—just do it!” said Collins.

Newman is the ninth Whitman student since 1990 to earn a Goldwater Scholarship. The most recent Whitman recipient before Newman was Gabriel Juul in 2017, an astronomy and physics major.