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Two McCormick Students Named Goldwater Fellows

The fellowship supports young researchers pursuing careers in natural sciences, math, and engineering

Northwestern Engineering undergraduate researchers Thomas Douglas and Sarah Sobol were among four University students who have been awarded the 2022 Barry Goldwater Scholarship, an honor that supports students who intend to pursue careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering. 

As Goldwater Scholars, Douglas and Sobol represent the scientific talent essential to ensuring the US maintains its global competitiveness and security, according to the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs.

A total of 417 Goldwater Scholars were chosen this year on the basis of academic merit from a pool of more than 1,200 natural science, engineering, and mathematics students nominated by the institutional representatives of 433 colleges and universities nationwide.

At Northwestern, the news is noteworthy since each university is allowed to put forth no more than four students each year for the national competition.

“It is a great honor to have all four of our nominees named Goldwater Scholars this year,” said LaTanya Veronica Williams, associate director for STEM in the Office of Fellowships. “As the Goldwater campus representative, I worked with each nominee intensively and assisted them in shaping their applications. Each demonstrates the spirit of excellence in academics and research found among all Northwestern students.”

Along with Douglas and Sobol, the other two students recognized were Carina Biar, who researches epilepsy in the lab of Gemma Carvill, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; and Anthony Tam, who investigates telomerase in cancer the lab of Karl Scheidt, professor of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The scholarship program honors the late Senator Barry Goldwater and is considered the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

Thomas Douglas 

Thomas Douglas

Douglas found his place in science as a seventh-grade student at Whitney Young High School in Chicago. Physics came easily to him, and his passion was ignited as he discovered the world around him could be explained through physics principles which, in turn, helped him better grasp the mechanisms of his second passion: playing guitar. At Northwestern he joined the lab of Matthew Grayson, professor of electrical and computer engineering at McCormick. He will be performing research in qubit measurement and characterization at Fermilab this summer as an intern in the Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center.

“The Goldwater application process has made me appreciate the support of my research mentors and advising which facilitate my progress,” he said. “I hope to use this award to continue my research in quantum technologies and find ways to leverage advancements to improve the lives of others.”

Sarah Sobol 

Sarah Sobol

Growing up, Sobol had a gift for dance, theater, and choir. She first displayed an affinity for math as an elementary school student in advanced math classes, solving algebraic equations with chess pieces. She came to Northwestern as a Murphy Scholar in the McCormick School of Engineering, tackling projects to clean up the Chicago River and assist stroke patients with mobility. In 2020 she joined the lab of Michael Jewett, professor of chemical and biological engineering at McCormick, where she investigates glycosylation, an important mechanism of secondary protein processing within cells.

“Going through the Goldwater process has helped to confirm my passion for research,” she said. “I hope to continue pursuing research in synthetic biology to help make an impact on the world around me.”