Two KU juniors named 2024 Goldwater Scholars

Fri, 04/05/2024


Erinn Barcomb-Peterson

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has two 2024 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars: juniors Cecilia Paranjothi of Lawrence and Kaitlyn (Kit) Savoy of Olathe.

Congress established the Goldwater scholarship 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 only students eligible for nomination are sophomore- and junior-level students with outstanding academic records, significant research experience and high potential for careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.

Paranjothi is majoring in chemistry, and Savoy is majoring in biological sciences and minoring in chemistry and theatre. This year’s KU recipients are the 78th and 79th KU undergraduates to be given a Goldwater scholarship since they first were awarded in 1989. 

Goldwater alumni can be found conducting research that is helping defend the nation, finding cures for catastrophic diseases and teaching future generations of scientists, mathematicians and engineers. KU students interested in applying for Goldwater scholarships next year should contact the Office of Fellowships via email.

About Cecilia Paranjothi

The daughter of Krishnan and Adrienne Paranjothi, Cecilia Paranjothi is a graduate of Free State High School. She plans to pursue a doctorate in chemistry and career in inorganic chemistry with the goal of improving the efficiency of sustainable sources of energy. 

Cecilia Paranjothi

Paranjothi said that being a Goldwater scholar will allow her to network with fellow Goldwater scholars — of which there are more than 500 this year — and that the financial support for college will allow her to focus on academics and research in the coming year.

She is 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.

“The (Goldwater) application process helped me to work on my scientific writing skills, which will be crucial for a career in chemistry,” Paranjothi said. 

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.

About Kaitlyn (Kit) Savoy

The daughter of John and Heidi Savoy, Kaitlyn (Kit) Savoy is a graduate of Olathe North High School majoring in biological sciences and minoring in chemistry and theatre.

Kaitlyn (Kit) Savoy

“Receiving this award has improved my sense of competence in pursuing my passion, keeping me excited to continue exploring in the field of microbiology,” Savoy said.

Savoy plans to pursue a doctorate in microbiology and conduct, facilitate and share research in microbiology as a principal investigator.

“Not having to worry about financing my senior year means I'll be able to dive further into my studies and dedicate more attention to graduate school applications, bringing me closer to the career I aspire to,” Savoy said.

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 Courtwright Award finalist in 2023 and 2024, and a KU Chancellor’s Merit Scholar.

Fri, 04/05/2024


Erinn Barcomb-Peterson

Media Contacts

Erinn Barcomb-Peterson

KU News Service