Four Iowa State students named Goldwater Scholars

Goldwater scholars

Iowa State's 2017 Goldwater Scholars, from left, Courtney Smith, Mengyu Wang, Mouhamad Diallo and Matthew Cook. Photo by Gary Clarke.

AMES, Iowa -- Four Iowa State University students have received Goldwater Scholarships, the nation's premier undergraduate scholarship in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering.

The scholarships are awarded by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in STEM research. A total of 240 Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,286 applicants nationwide.

ISU's candidates are selected through an on-campus competition coordinated by the university's Honors Program. Universities can nominate up to four candidates for the national competition. This year, Iowa State is one of only four institutions — along with Stanford, Princeton and the University of Alabama — to have all nominees selected as scholars. Iowa State also had four Goldwater Scholars in 2014.

The Iowa State students are:

  • Matthew David Cook, a senior in biochemistry and genetics from Coon Rapids, Minnesota, will pursue a Ph.D. to teach and research in the area of enzymology to improve protein engineering. Cook also conducted research in Valencia, Spain, as part of a study abroad program.
  • Mouhamad Said Diallo, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering and materials engineering, from Ames, plans to earn a Ph.D. and pursue an academic career in sustainable energy and technology. Diallo moved from Dakar, Senegal, three years ago. He transferred to ISU from Des Moines Area Community College, where he co-authored a scholarly article in Physics Letters A while working with an ISU mechanical engineering researcher. Diallo participates in the Iowa Illinois Nebraska Stem Partnership for Innovation in Research and Education and the ISU McNair program, which prepares underrepresented students for graduate school.
  • Courtney Leigh Smith, a senior in genetics from Aurora, Illinois, will pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience to research neurogenerative diseases on the cellular level in order to develop more effective treatment options. She currently studies the genetic basis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), and is president of the Genetics Club and a peer mentor for the Genetics Learning Community. Last summer while researching at the Mayo Clinic, Smith defined the efficiency of genome editing techniques to be used in future clinical trials. She will conduct research at another Mayo Clinic this summer.
  • Mengyu “Allen” Wang, a junior majoring in aerospace engineering, economics and mathematics from Bettendorf, plans on researching computational design at a university or government research center. Last summer, he interned at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, where he worked on measuring Newton’s Gravitational Constant from space with data from the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft. Most recently, his research focuses on optimization under uncertainty. This summer, he will work at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The scholarship program honoring Sen. Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering.

The one- and two-year undergraduate scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.