Five Penn juniors have been awarded the 2022 Goldwater Scholarship to fund their research careers in a STEM field.
College juniors Allison Chou and Andrew Sontag and Engineering juniors Laila Barakat Norford, Shriya Karam, and Joshua Chen are among the 417 recipients — selected from 1,242 students nominated across 433 academic institutions, Penn Today reported.
The annual Goldwater Scholarship is awarded to sophomores and juniors intending to earn a Ph.D. or master's degree and pursue a research career in mathematics, natural sciences, or engineering. Scholars receive $7,500 each year for up to two years of undergraduate study.
Penn nominates four students — five if one has transferred to Penn — for the scholarship annually through the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. Penn has led the Goldwater Scholarships in the Ivy League in the past seven years, with 23 students selected out of 30 nominees.
Norford is on track to receive an undergraduate degree in bioengineering, as well as minors in computer science and bioethics. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in computational biology and eventually start an academic career working at a research university like Penn.
Norford was motivated to apply to the scholarship by a desire to develop technologies that elucidate new design mechanisms for women's reproductive diseases.
"The field of women's reproductive diseases is underfunded and under-researched, but it also affects many women. I hope to look more into those diseases using technologies and help ensure equitable access to new biological technologies," Norford said.
Karam — currently a systems engineering major who advocates for inclusion in engineering — hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in civil engineering. In addition to her studies, Karam conducts research with the Center for Safe Mobility.
Chen is a dual-degree student, majoring in both materials science and engineering as well as entrepreneurship and innovation in the Wharton School. He shares his time conducting research at Penn and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Sontag is submatriculating, pursuing a concurrent bachelor's and master's degree in physics with a concentration in astrophysics and a minor in math. He hopes to earn a Ph.D., which would enable him to research high energy quantum interactions, Penn Today reported.
Chou is majoring in neuroscience and minoring in chemistry. She is currently conducting sleep research and is applying her research through initiatives such as Sleep Well at Harnwell, advocating for sleep health for Penn students, and giving out sleep masks and cards with sleep health tips.
"Applying for the Goldwater Scholarship or any other fellowships is a practice to articulate students' interests and identify their future plans. The process prepares them to apply for graduate schools and other funding opportunities," Senior Associate Director for Fellowships Wallace Genser said.