Published: April 13, 2020

A CU Boulder undergraduate working to develop energy efficient technologies to combat the effects of global warming and another who is conducting research to better understand heart disease have been named recipients of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, which rewards juniors and seniors who are actively conducting research in math, science and engineering.

Niamh BrownSantos Navarro, left, with Chancellor Philip DiStefano

Niamh Brown, top, and Santos Navarro, bottom, with Chancellor Philip DiStefano 

Niamh Brown, a junior from Boulder who is majoring in chemistry, and Santos Navarro, a junior from Denver who is majoring in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, join 42 previous CU Boulder Goldwater Scholars and will receive up to $7,500 for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Brown has worked in two chemistry research labs at CU Boulder, with projects focused on developing nanomaterials for harvesting solar energy and other energy-efficient technologies. When she is not working in a lab, she lifts weights, hikes and plays the cello.

“I hope to use the scholarship to continue cutting-edge research that can be applied to counter climate change,” she said.

She credits her mentors for her academic success, among them Michael Marshak, an assistant professor of chemistry; Gordana Dukovic, an associate professor of chemistry; Laura Maurer, a chemistry graduate student; Anne Dougherty, a teaching professor and associate chair of applied mathematics and Goldwater faculty representative; and Deborah Viles, the director of the Office of Top Scholarships.

Navarro, who works in the Leinwand Lab at the BioFrontiers Institute, is examining the role of heart-contracting myosin proteins––work essential to understanding heart disease factors such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes the heart muscle to become abnormally thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood.

He said he was particularly grateful to those who have supported him, including Distinguished Professor Leslie Leinwand, chief scientific officer for the BioFrontiers Institute; postdoctoral associate Kristen Bjorkman; biochemistry PhD candidate Lindsey Joe Broadwell; and Miramontes Arts and Science Program (MASP) Assistant Director Katherine Semsar.

Outside the lab, Navarro enjoys stargazing, traveling and participating in MASP, which provides opportunities for motivated, traditionally underrepresented and first-generation students.

“MASP enabled me to become a Goldwater Scholar and my MASP community is full of CU’s brightest students fighting for their educations,” he said.

In a statement, Dougherty and Viles said they were “thrilled that Niamh and Santos were honored for their creative thinking and contributions to novel research in their fields,” and credited their success, in part, to strong faculty-student relationships.

“We are very proud of our students, and we’re excited to see what they accomplish next,” they said.

This week, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation announced that its board of trustees had increased the number of scholarships for the 2020-21 academic year to 396 college students across the United States, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Defense Education Programs (NDEP).

“It is vitally important that the nation ensures that it has the scientific talent it needs to maintain its global competitiveness and security,” said NDEP Director Jagadeesh Pamulapati. “We saw partnering with the Goldwater Foundation as a way to help ensure the U.S. is developing this talent.”

With the 2020-21 awards, the Goldwater Foundation has awarded 9,047 scholarship awards totaling more than $71 million since 1989.

Applying for the Goldwater Scholarship

Deborah Viles, director of the Office of Top Scholarships, encourages math, science and engineering students with demonstrated research experience to consider applying for the Goldwater Scholarship next year. Contact Viles and visit the Goldwater Scholarship website for more information.