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USU's Gold Standard: Three Aggies are the 2016 Goldwater Honorees

USU Honors student, Undergraduate Research Fellow and physics major Benjamin Lovelady is a 2016 Goldwater Scholar.


USU undergraduate Caroline Bourgeois, a biology and biochemistry major, received an honorable mention from the Goldwater Foundation.


USU Honors student Alexander Cook, a biological engineering major, received an honorable mention from the Goldwater Foundation.

Utah State University student Benjamin Lovelady is a 2016 Goldwater Scholar and his fellow undergraduates Caroline Bourgeois and Alexander Cook received honorable mentions in a prestigious national competition that recognizes outstanding achievements in science and mathematics.

The award is administered by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.  With this year’s honorees, USU boasts 25 Goldwater Scholars and 14 honorable mention recipients since 1998.

“This is well-deserved recognition for these students and a tremendous honor for Utah State University,” says USU President Stan Albrecht. “This award is a testament to the exceptional achievements of these individuals in academics, research and service, as well as the outstanding mentorship by our faculty.”

Each year, USU may submit up to four nominations for the award; a process coordinated by the USU Honors program that begins in November. Scholarship award recipients receive up to $7,500 toward annual tuition and expenses.

Lovelady is an Undergraduate Research Fellow. He and Cook are members of the USU Honors Program. Bourgeois is a third-year cadet in USU’s Army ROTC Jim Bridger Detachment.

Scholar Benjamin Lovelady, physics

Passionate about science and demonstrating a knack for mechanics since childhood, Lovelady developed a reputation in his household for “fixing things.”

“My family always assumed I’d become an engineer,” says the Taylorsville, Utah, native. “And throughout high school that was my goal.”

But a combined calculus/physics class in high school sparked the teen’s curiosity about theoretical physics.

“I found so many facets of physics fascinating,” says the Cottonwood High School graduate. “I thought I’d major in engineering and take physics on the side. But after poring through USU’s course catalog, I concluded the only way to learn quantum field theory was to major in physics.”

With USU faculty mentor Jim Wheeler, Lovelady is pursuing research on the Kaluza-Klein Theory on biconformal space. The sophomore recently published a paper on dynamical spacetime theory in Physical Review D, one of the physics community’s most prestigious academic journals.

“This paper is an attempt to explain gravity and the other three interactions — electromagnetism, weak nuclear and strong nuclear — with one unified theory,” Lovelady says. “My model does not really do this, but I’d like to think it is a step in the right direction.”

Following graduation from USU, he plans to pursue a doctorate in physics and a career in theoretical physics research.

Caroline Bourgeois, cellular/molecular biology and biochemistry

Bourgeois hails from Hohenfels, Germany, where her father served with the U.S Army. She graduated from Hohenfels High School in 2013.

Her father’s 2007 cancer diagnosis changed her family forever, Bourgeois says. Thankfully, he is now cancer-free, but his five-year struggle galvanized his daughter’s determination to pursue cancer study and research.

“By connecting our experience and my education with my future goals, I have an opportunity to pursue study of genetics and eventually give back to others consumed in their own battles with cancer,” she says.

With faculty mentor Frank Messina, Bourgeois is studying mechanisms by which seed beetles adapt to newly introduced host plants, including food crops. She’s attempting to describe the genomic basis of trade-offs in insect performance and survival across host plants.

When she completes her studies at USU, Bourgeois hopes to join the U.S. Army’s Medical Corps and pursue genetics research.

“My objective is to advance understanding of cancer pathogenesis and to facilitate the translation of basic science innovations into the clinical setting to improve cancer patients’ survival,” she says.

Alexander Cook, biological engineering

Cook says his late grandfather, who taught science and math for more than 30 years, challenged him to “question the way the world works.”

The aspiring researcher took his first mentor’s advice to heart. After moving with his family, at age 12, to Washington’s San Juan Islands, Cook took advantage of opportunities to study marine biology.

“My classmates and I observed and studied every organism we could capture during our field trips to our island’s beaches,” he says. “The more I learned, the more intriguing and captivating the oceanfront became and my desire to learn grew.”

Following graduation from Lopez High School in 2011 and some college studies, Cook completed a two-year mission in Brazil.

With a four-month gap before resuming school, Cook embarked on a goal-setting technique, where he imagined what he’d like to be doing in five, 10 and 30 years.

“I idealized myself as a future president, a Pulitzer Prize-receiving author and other fantastic careers and realized nothing enticed me more than developing devices and materials that could improve health care treatment,” he says.

To that end, the biological engineering major joined the synthetic spider silk lab of USU USTAR Biology professor Randy Lewis.

With Lewis, Cook is investigating ways to improve synthetic spider silk fibers produced in the USU lab that could one day provide material for artificial tendons, ligaments and skin, along with many other biomedical applications.

This year’s Goldwater Scholars are among 252 awardees selected from a field of 1,150 mathematics, science and engineering students from 415 colleges and universities nationwide. The national average for scholar and honorable mention recipients per competing institution is 1.2 per year, highlighting USU students’ impressive achievements.

Previous USU Goldwater Honorees

2015

Kathryn Sweet, biochemistry and physics

David Griffin, physics and computer science (Honorable Mention)

2014

Rachel Nydegger Rozum, physics and mathematics

David Griffin, physics and computer science (Honorable Mention)

2013

J. Tyler Gish, chemistry and physics

Jordan Rozum, physics and mathematics

2012

Mitch Dabling, civil engineering

Sarah Mousley, mathematics

Jordan Rozum, physics and mathematics (Honorable Mention)

Rachel Ward, physics and mathematics (Honorable Mention)

2011

Linsey Johnson, physics

Brooke Siler, biochemistry and economics

Brian Tracy, physics

Karen Nielsen, mechanical and aerospace engineering (Honorable Mention)

2010

Daniel Fenn, physics

Justin Koeln, mechanical and aerospace engineering

Robert Call, physics (Honorable Mention)

2009

Taren McKenna, physics and mathematics

Cody Tramp, molecular biology and biochemistry

B.J. Myers, physics (Honorable Mention)

2008

Jodie Barker-Tvedtnes, physics

Tamara Jeppson, geology and physics

Sydney Chamberlin, physics and mathematics (Honorable Mention)

Cody Tramp, molecular biology and biochemistry (Honorable Mention)

2007

Jennifer Albretsen-Roth, physics

Arthur Mahoney, computer science and mathematics

Jodie Barker-Tvedtnes, physics (Honorable Mention)

2006

Logan McKenna, electrical engineering

Heidi Wheelwright, physics

Keith Warnick, physics (Honorable Mention)

2004

Stephanie Chambers, biology

David Hatch, physics

2002

Jamie B. Jorgensen, physics

2001

Lara B. Anderson, physics and mathematics

1998

Jeff Jacobs, mechanical engineering

Related Links:

Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program

USU Honors Program

Contact: Amber Summers-Graham, 435-797-3790, amber.summers@usu.edu

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517, maryann.muffoletto@usu.edu