Goldwater Scholars: Hattiesburg native among three Southern Miss students recognized


The University of Southern Mississippi sports a well-documented tradition of excellence in producing Goldwater Scholarship winners. And now the bar has been raised even higher as three USM students have earned the prestigious award for 2019, including one student from Hattiesburg.

Not since 1995 has the university seen three winners in the same year. No other Mississippi college or university had more than one winner for 2019. This year’s trio brings the total number of USM Goldwater Scholarship recipients to a state-leading total of 24.

“The Goldwater Scholarship is considered the premier nationally competitive scholarship for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) research as an undergraduate student,” said Danielle Manasco, project director for Nationally Competitive Programs at USM. “The application process is extensive and coincides with an already rigorous course load and research hours in the lab. “The monetary prize is only one benefit of being named a Goldwater Scholar. This accomplishment and academic honor gives our students a competitive edge which will help them gain admittance into the most prestigious graduate programs in the country.”

USM’s 2019 Goldwater Scholars include:

Clara Ellis of Hattiesburg is a sophomore ACS Chemistry major and a Ronald McNair Scholar. Her faculty mentor is Dr. Matthew Donahue. Research emphasis: producing an efficient organic synthetic pathway to produce polycyclic piperidine derivatives.

Erin Crater of Laurel  is a junior with a double major in polymer science and chemistry. A member of the University’s Honors College, Crater was awarded entrance in the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship Program of 2018 through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration nd a 2018 Goldwater Honorable Mention. Her faculty mentor is Dr. Jason Azoulay. Research emphasis: conjugated polymer-based fluorescent sensors for the detection of contaminants in seawater.

Michael Sandoz of Long Beach is a junior polymer science major. Also a member of USM’s Honors College, he was a 2018 Udall Honorable Mention and a 2018 Goldwater Honorable Mention. Dr. Derek Patton. is his faculty mentor.  Research emphasis: degradable plastics using a type of click chemistry known as thiol-ene photochemistry. 

All three noted the Goldwater Scholarship’s grueling academic requirements, while expressing gratitude that their hard work yielded rewarding results.

“I was in a state of disbelief because I did not think I had enough accomplishments to receive the scholarship,”said Ellis. “The recognition of the Goldwater Scholarship means a lot to me as I have been working on scientific research since the summer after my junior year of high school.”

From an estimated pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1,223 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 443 academic institutions to compete for the 2019 Goldwater scholarships. A total of 493 scholarships were awarded this year.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation provides scholarships to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. The Goldwater Foundation awards scholarships of up to $7,500 a year assisting with costs associated with tuition, mandatory fees, books, room and board. A sophomore receiving the Goldwater Scholarship will receive up to $7,500 in each of his/her junior and senior years. A junior will receive up to $7,500 in his/her senior year.