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Two MSU Students Earn Goldwater Scholarships

East Lansing, Mich. – Michigan State students Libby Ashby and Aaron Philip have earned the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, becoming the university’s 54th and 55th Goldwater Scholars.

The Goldwater Foundation seeks sophomores and juniors committed to a research career in STEM fields with the potential for significant future contribution in their chosen field. The award provides $7,500 per year in funding for undergraduate tuition and living expenses.

For the 2024 Goldwater Scholarship competition, 1,353 outstanding undergraduates were nominated by 446 institutions. Ashby and Philip were among 438 scholars selected nationally. The funding for these awards is a collaboration between the U.S. Congress and the Department of Defense’s National Defense Education Program.

Libby Ashby: Championing Research and Mentorship

Ashby is a third-year student from Hudsonville, Michigan studying Geological Sciences and Chemistry in the College of Natural Science. She is also a member of the MSU Honors College.

“Words cannot express my gratitude in being selected as a recipient of the Goldwater Scholarship,” Ashby said. “I am incredibly honored to receive this award, and I am excited to see where my research takes me as I finish my undergraduate studies and transition into graduate school.”

Ashby is committed to a career in geochemistry research, with a focus on metamorphic rocks. She is a research assistant for two projects under the mentorship of Dr. Angela Wilson in the Department of Chemistry and MSU Center for PFAS, and Dr. Tyrone Rooney in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

“Libby Ashby is a stellar student with an incredible drive towards discovery,” Wilson said. “She has a strong interest in geochemistry/geology and has been a significant contributor to our research endeavors, studying environmental contaminants in soils. We are delighted that she is being recognized for her terrific work and dedication to both academic and research excellence.”

Ashby began her work with Wilson through the Honors College’s Professorial Assistantship program, which provides a two-year research placement with a faculty member and stipend.

Ashby has also participated in the university’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program, as well as its High School Honors Science, Math and Engineering Program, mentoring high school students and furthering their education in chemistry and research.

She has presented research projects at MSU’s Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, MSU’s Mid-SURE Conference, and the American Chemical Society spring meeting. Ashby also has a manuscript in preparation for publication.

“From the moment she stepped onto campus, Libby has set a high standard of excellence and success. Her wide-ranging research experience in the geological sciences and her work on environmental contaminants demonstrates her commitment to putting her values into practice through her research,” said Dr. Christopher P. Long, Dean of the MSU Honors College and of the College of Arts & Letters. “On behalf of the Honors College, congratulations, Libby, on becoming a Goldwater Scholar.”

“I would like to acknowledge my research mentors, friends, and family for supporting me both throughout this application process and during my college experience as a whole,” Ashby said. “I owe a great deal of my success to you guys and I truly could not have done it without your support!”

Aaron Philip: A Wide Range of Research Experiences

Philip is a second-year student from Los Alamos, New Mexico studying Physics and Advanced Mathematics in the College of Natural Science. He is also a member of the Honors College.

“I am honored and humbled to join the ranks of Spartan Goldwater Scholars. I share this recognition with my professors, research mentors, fellow students, and family who have all supported me and cultivated my passion to pursue a career in physics research,” Philip said. “Specifically, I would like to thank my research mentors over the past few years for their guidance, encouragement, and mentorship: Drs. Pablo Giuliani, Kyle Godbey, Witek Nazarewicz, Odelia Schwartz, Jianliang Qian, and Benjamin Nebgen.”

Philip is passionate about pursuing a career in research addressing micro-scale physics problems using analytic approaches, high performance computing, and AI. He has contributed to diverse research projects through his roles as a Professorial Assistant at MSU’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a Discovering America researcher with MSU’s Math Department, a student intern at the Theoretical Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and as a Computer Science REU student at the University of Miami.

“Aaron joined our nuclear theory research group at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University in August 2022 as an undergraduate research assistant. An incoming first-year undergraduate student, he came extremely well prepared to directly work in forefront research and quickly managed to get acquainted with the necessary tools and background knowledge,” Dr. Kyle Godbey and Dr. Witold Nazarewicz said.

“During the course of his work, Aaron was able to reach a level of mastery of theoretical and computational methods on par with the current experts in the field. We consider ourselves to be incredibly lucky to have Aaron as a member of our research group and we have no doubt that he will go on to have a successful research career,” Godbey and Nazarewicz said.

“Aaron’s research at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams has been exemplary, and his mentorship activities embody the values of care and support that empower excellence at the MSU Honors College. We congratulate Aaron on being named a Goldwater Scholar,” Long said.

Philip has written two papers and presented at various conferences, including MSU’s Mathematics and Data Science Conferences, the University of Miami’s Computer Science REU Poster Presentation, and a LANL Lab Directed Research and Development Review. He also serves as a student tutor through the Mathematics Learning Center and at East Lansing High School.

The Distinguished Student Awards Office (formerly National/International Fellowships and Scholarships Office), administered by the Honors College, helps undergraduate and graduate students pursue major national and international opportunities by providing information and direct support throughout the competitive application processes.

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