LAWRENCE — The tight-knit group of four friends had already been through a lot together at the University of Kansas, from late-night organic chemistry study sessions to rigorous class schedules and meals out during their free time.
Now, they’ve all been recognized as outstanding students by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship & Excellence in Education Foundation. Three of the students — Emily Boyd, Cara Davis and Joseph Loomis — all earned Goldwater Scholarships, and a fourth, Zachary Wood, earned an honorable mention from the foundation.
“A Goldwater Scholarship just seemed like this shiny goal that was almost unattainable,” Boyd said. “It was exciting for all of us to do so well."
All four are junior chemistry majors who spend a lot of time together. (Loomis is also majoring in biochemistry.) Many of their classes are the same and have been for several semesters. Each of them can talk about the research going on in the others’ labs almost as quickly as they can discuss their own.
With these latest awards, 65 KU students have received Goldwater Scholarships since they were first awarded in 1989. The scholarships cover eligible expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees, books and room and board, up to $7,500 annually. Only sophomores and juniors with outstanding academic records, significant research experience and high potential for careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering were eligible for nomination.
Loomis, like his Goldwater compatriots, began developing an interest in science at an early age and took Advanced Placement courses online at the encouragement of his high school teachers in Pratt. Today, his analytical chemistry work in the lab focuses on precisely measuring neurotransmitter release in the brain.
Because all four-year institutions are limited to four students who can be submitted for consideration for the award, KU’s on-campus competitive process can be a strenuous one even before the students are selected to apply to the Goldwater Foundation. A committee of professors in STEM disciplines, chaired by KU chemistry professor Mikhail Barybin, reviews each application.
The four friends remembered meeting for lunch on campus at the Underground after hearing the decision about who got nominated and being nervous about one of them getting left out.
They counted to three before revealing the news all at once.
“We were bracing ourselves for what to do in case one of us got left out,” Loomis said. No need, as all of them had made it through.
And they all went on to celebrate their future success together, too. Out of 1,280 students who applied for scholarships this year, 211 earned awards, and 281 received an honorable mention.
Davis remembered refreshing the Goldwater Foundation’s website again and again on the day the results were to be announced and texting her friends with celebratory messages after seeing their success.
“I was thinking, ‘Wow, there’s no way,’” she said. “At first, I didn’t see everyone’s name, but I was so happy when I found everyone.”
Anne Wallen is program director for the Office of Fellowships at KU, which coordinates the nomination process. She said this year’s campus competition was especially tough, and she was pleased to see the students who made it through enjoy such success.
“Having all four students recognized by the Goldwater Foundation demonstrates KU’s excellence in undergraduate research,” Wallen said. “The process for applying for national awards is very intense. With this year’s candidates being such good friends, it made it that much easier for them to look at the intangible benefits of the process.”
All four students intend on pursuing careers in the sciences and plan to apply to graduate schools after receiving their KU degrees.
More information about each honoree is below.
Emily Boyd is the daughter of Mark Boyd and Patti Miklos Boyd of Moran. A graduate of Marmaton Valley High School, Boyd is preparing for a career researching environmentally beneficial catalysis. She works in the lab of James Blakemore, researching organometallic chemistry and catalysis. She has presented her work at a regional meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and will present this month at the ACS national meeting. Her mentors included Blakemore, Keaton Prather and Davide Lionetti.
Cara Davis is the daughter of Daniel Davis of Wichita. A graduate of Wichita High School East, Davis is planning a career researching protein structure and dynamics. Davis currently works in the lab of Audrey Lamb in the Department of Molecular Biosciences. She was previously selected for the competitive Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) program. She has given several presentations on her research as a K-INBRE Scholar, both locally and nationally. Her mentors include Lamb, Emily Scott, Jeffrey McFarlane, Aaron Bart and Agnes Walsh.
Joseph Loomis is the son of Ted and Linda Loomis of Pratt. A graduate of Pratt High School, Loomis is planning a career researching the molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases. He joined the lab of Michael Johnson in the chemistry department the summer after he graduated from high school. A scholar in the Kansas IDeA Network of K-INBRE, Loomis has presented at regional professional conferences and at the 254th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. His mentors include Johnson, Thomas Field and Todd Williams.
Zachary Wood is the son of Anne Wood and Charles Wood of Eureka, Missouri. A graduate of Eureka High School, Wood intends to focus on the design of environmentally friendly functional materials in his research careers. He works in the lab of Mikhail Barybin researching the design of electron-rich compounds that may serve as highly conductive molecular rectifiers. Wood has presented at several local and regional conferences and three national meetings of the ACS. His mentors include Barybin, Mason Hart, Jason Applegate and Nate Erickson.