Students nominated for Goldwater scholarship

Libby Bullinger, Copy editor

Last week, Mercyhurst announced the nomination of two students for the national Goldwater scholarship. The nominees are junior environmental science student Erin Smith and sophomore biology student Collin Olson.

The Goldwater scholarship is a national award given to undergraduate students, specifically those in the natural science, math and engineering fields of study. Various college institutions around the country can nominate students who are in these fields and are interested in pursuing a research-oriented career.

Mercyhurst has not nominated students for this award in several years, so this year the Honors department and Rajinikanth Mohan, Ph.D., professor of biology and campus representative for this particular scholarship, got together to create a list of potential student nominees.

They eventually decided on Smith and Olson as the two Mercyhurst students whose names and research would be submitted to the national Goldwater Scholarship.

Taking a closer look at the two nominees, it is clear that they both display the kind of talent and drive that Mercyhurst instills in students and allows them to reach impressive goals and accomplishments while still studying in undergraduate school.

Smith is a junior with a major in environmental science, but the focus of her project pairs with her minor in geology. Smith was nominated for the award by Nick Lang, Ph.D., geology professor, due to her prior research in water filtration.

Smith’s research in this area has already been published in a newsletter for the Geology and Health Division, and Smith was able to present her project at a Geological Society of America Conference back in October 2019.

This scholarship nomination is just another step on her journey toward a career in environmental engineering and sustainability, where Smith hopes to obtain a master’s degree and eventually her Ph.D.

In a separate but just as vigorous project, biology major, Olson took inspiration from a class project assessing soil samples in the Erie community to assess pollution levels. From this project stemmed his own individual research which revolves around the study of fluorescent capabilities of Pseudomonas bacteria.

Olson notes that he finds this research particularly interesting with the hopes that it could help pathologists identify infections in patients. Since Mohan was the professor that worked with the initial group project that sparked Olson’s research, he was the faculty member that nominated him for the scholarship. Olson also expressed interest in obtaining a Ph.D. in his future.

Both Smith and Olson expressed their extreme gratitude toward both professors that helped them along the way and the general Mercyhurst programming and student-focused atmosphere.

Olson specifically mentioned professors including Mohan, Michael Foulk, Ph.D. of the biology department and Ronald Brown, Ph.D. of the chemistry department as “some of the most genuine and hardworking individuals on campus.”

Olson said that these professors are “natural mentors who ignite interest in students, making jumping into research very easy.”

On a similar note, Smith recognized the unique range of classes offered in the environmental science program, with courses including the natural sciences, public health and even economics.

To finish it off, Smith said, “I might be biased, but I think I have had some of the most supportive professors since day one at Mercyhurst.”

If you see either of these two students around, make sure to congratulate them on their nominations!