KU nominates 4 students for Goldwater scholarships
LAWRENCE — Four University of Kansas honors students who have been actively involved in undergraduate research during their university careers are competing for Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, regarded as the premier undergraduate award to encourage excellence in science, engineering and mathematics.
The students’ applications are coordinated by the Office of Fellowships in Academic Success.
KU’s 2024 nominees:
- Joseph Hand, a junior in astronomy & physics
- Alexa Magstadt, a sophomore in molecular, cellular & developmental biology minoring in Spanish
- Cecilia Paranjothi, a junior in chemistry
- Kaitlyn (Kit) Savoy, a junior in biological sciences minoring in chemistry and theatre
Seventy-seven KU students have received Goldwater scholarships since they first were awarded in 1989. Congress established the program in 1986 in tribute to the retired U.S. senator from Arizona and to ensure a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
The Goldwater Foundation trustees will announce the 2024 winners in late March. The scholarships cover eligible expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board, up to $7,500 annually. Each year the trustees award approximately 450 scholarships.
Only sophomore- and junior-level students with outstanding academic records, significant research experience and high potential for careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering are eligible for nomination. Nominees submitted applications that included essays related to their career goals and research experience and three faculty recommendations. Students interested in applying next year should contact the Office of Fellowships by email. The next application cycle will begin in fall 2024.
Brief descriptions of the nominees’ research experience, organizational involvement and career plans follow.
Hand, from Overland Park, is the son of Edward Hand and Sarah Hand and a graduate of Hand Family Homeschool. Hand is majoring in astronomy & physics and plans to pursue a doctorate to become a professor in computational astrophysics, developing models of processes such as planetary formation to determine how these processes may work in nature. He currently conducts research in the ExoLab, run by Ian Crossfield, KU associate professor of physics & astronomy, developing HARPSpec to study stars and their chemical compositions using a software called The Cannon. Hand also participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program through the University of California-Berkeley and is continuing his work there creating a software tool called ALIAS to identify potential signs of intelligent life in infrared spectra from APOGEE. He is the KU SPS Magazine editor for the KU Society of Physics Students Chapter, a physics and astronomy public outreach volunteer, an undergraduate teaching assistant for College Physics II, a KU astronomy seminar presenter and was one of the physics & astronomy department’s undergraduate representatives at assembly meetings. Hand is a Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Pi Phi inductee for academic excellence and a KU Chancellor’s Merit Scholarship recipient.
Magstadt, from Shawnee, is the daughter of Dave and Amy Magstadt and a graduate of Shawnee Mission Northwest High School. Magstadt is majoring in molecular, cellular & developmental biology and minoring in Spanish. She aspires to earn a medical degree and doctorate and become a physician-scientist in the field of medical oncology and drug design. Magstadt currently conducts research in the Dixon Cancer Prevention Lab under the direction of Dr. Dan Dixon, investigating the effect of small-molecule KRAS inhibition on colorectal cancer. Magstadt has presented her research at the University of Kansas Cancer Center’s Research Week Symposium. Previously, she served as a 2023 summer intern at KU Medical Center, interpreting patient data and entering records into a clinical trial database in the Department of Radiation Oncology, and from 2022 to 2023, she participated in the Baer Soil Ecology Lab. Magstadt is a member of the KU Waterski Team, leads the Center for Community Outreach’s Jaypaws program and serves as an ambassador for the KU Honors Program. She is also a University Scholar as well as the recipient of a 2024 KU Undergraduate Research Award and the BioScholarship, awarded to 1-4 incoming freshmen based on academic achievement and interest in the biological sciences.
Paranjothi, from Lawrence, is the daughter of Krishnan and Adrienne Paranjothi and a graduate of Free State High School. Paranjothi is majoring in chemistry. She plans to pursue a doctorate in chemistry and have a career in the field of inorganic chemistry with the goal of improving the efficiency of sustainable sources of energy. Paranjothi is currently part of a research lab led by James Blakemore, KU associate professor of chemistry, where she studies the surface of behavior of various uranium complexes, which is motivated by the need for advances in the processing of spent nuclear fuel. Previously, under Blakemore’s guidance, she assessed influences on the quantification of Lewis acidity with phosphine oxide probes. Paranjothi’s work has been featured in a paper published by the Journal of Inorganic Chemistry, and she has presented at both regional and national American Chemical Society conferences. She is a member of the KU Chemistry Club and is a former peer tutor for the KU Academic Learning Center. Paranjothi is also the recipient of the Jack and Carolyn Landgrebe Research Scholarship, the Leland and Jill Weigel Scholarship, the WCC Eli Lilly Travel Award, a 2023 and 2024 Undergraduate Research Award, the Bricker Summer ChemScholar Research Stipend and a KU Chancellor’s Merit Scholarship.
Kaitlyn (Kit) Savoy
Savoy, from Olathe, is the daughter of John and Heidi Savoy and a graduate of Olathe North High School. Savoy is majoring in biological sciences and minoring in chemistry and theatre with plans to pursue a doctorate in microbiology and conduct, facilitate and share research in microbiology as a principal investigator. Savoy has participated in several research projects under the direction of Benjamin Sikes, KU associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, including those focused on grassland restoration, mimulus plant-soil feedback, perennial crops in sustainable agriculture, gamma irradiation of soils and understanding environmental drivers of extremophile microbes for use in space. Savoy has also served as a microbiology undergraduate teaching assistant, a Sikes Microbial Lab peer mentor, a biology tutor, a shopkeep for Wander Bee Wares and a transcriber for the Smithsonian Institution. Savoy is a KU BioScholar, the recipient of a 2023 and 2024 Undergraduate Research Award, a 2023 Courtwright Award finalist and a KU Chancellor’s Merit Scholar.