Goldwater Scholars Exemplify Excellence at U-Idaho

Thursday, April 4 2013

MOSCOW, Idaho — Ranking University of Idaho undergraduates competitively with students from across the nation, physics sophomore Rebecca La Verne Winzer and mechanical engineering junior Kevin Witkoe were both recently named Goldwater Scholars.

“I am pleased to see two of our students earning scholarships in a nationally and highly competitive program like the Goldwater Scholarship,” said University of Idaho President M. Duane Nellis. “Our university continues to produce top scholars as a result of hard work and passion from our students and faculty.”

Witkoe, of Spokane, Wash., and La Verne Winzer, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, were two of 271 scholars named. The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,107 mathematics, science and engineering students. The scholarship program honors Sen. Barry Goldwater and fosters and encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. The one-year scholarship for Wikoe and the two-year scholarship for La Verne Winzer will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 each year.

As a student in the Idaho Space Grant Consortium, Witkoe interned at NASA’s jet propulsion lab in Pasadena, Calif., to help create a robotic gripper for rock surfaces in microgravity. He will return to the lab this summer to work on tools for robotic arms for the lunar robot Athlete. He performs undergraduate research on robotic hands geared towards helping stroke patients’ physical therapy; is the assistant flight director for the Vandal Atmospheric Space Team, which sends weather-recording instruments into the air with balloons; and volunteers his time to help create science kits for underserved elementary schools.

“Applying for the Goldwater Scholarship was a challenge; I wanted to see if I was competitive with other students across the nation,” says Witkoe, who plans to earn a doctorate in mechanical engineering and conduct research in robotics and/or teach at the university level. “Earning a Goldwater Scholarship really shows that what I am doing here is nationally competitive.”

La Verne Winzer is working on undergraduate research in nuclear physics. She is using a method called renormalization to remove the low-energy dependence of chiral effective field theory in order to derive a more fundamental theory of nuclear forces. She will spend the summer at Brigham Young University involved in Research Experience Undergraduate to study nanoparticles and conduct research involving material structures. In addition to her studies, La Verne Winzer is an active student on campus assisting the Circle K club’s volunteer efforts, participating in the Alternative Service Break program with a trip to Boise, tutoring student-athletes, competing on the Master’s Swim Team, and traveling to national physics conferences.

“The Goldwater Scholarship will definitely open doors to other scholarships and programs, as well as make it more possible to get into top graduate schools,” said La Verne Winzer, who plans to earn a doctorate in physics, then teach and conduct research at the university level specializing in nuclear, medical or biophysics. “I’m not sure which area of physics I want to go into yet, but I’m gaining valuable experience in some major areas. It’s easy to get involved in research as an undergraduate at the University of Idaho because the professors are very open to giving inexperienced students the opportunity.”

This year, 176 of the scholars are men, 95 are women and virtually all intend to obtain a doctorate. Of the scholars, 27 are mathematics majors, 159 are science and related majors, 71 are majoring in engineering and 14 are computer science majors.

Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 118 Marshall Awards, 110 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships.

Since 1991, University of Idaho students have garnered 26 Goldwater scholarships, the most in Idaho.
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About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho inspires students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Through the university’s $225 million Inspiring Futures capital campaign, private giving will enhance student learning, faculty research and innovation, and a spirit of enterprise. Learn more: