Three juniors win Goldwater Scholarships for distinction in STEM

Kendra Libby, Alex Cohen, and Jason Yang
Left to right: Kendra Libby, Alex Cohen, and Jason Yang

Three Yale juniors are among 396 individuals who have been awarded Goldwater Scholarships, which are given to sophomores or juniors in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields who demonstrate excellence and potential to have a lasting career in research.

The Yale awardees are Alex Cohen of Ezra Stiles College, Kendra Libby of Saybrook College, and Jason Yang of Silliman College.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The scholarship program honors the late Senator Barry Goldwater and was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

Cohen is majoring in mathematics. In addition to his research in number theory and geometry, he has been active in the Yale Undergraduate Math Society and the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition, worked as a peer mentor and tutor in the math department, and studied American Sign Language. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics.

Libby is majoring in molecular biophysics & biochemistry, and has conducted research at the intersection of cell biology, immunology, and biochemistry. She has been active in the Yale physics department’s Girl’s Science Investigations program, the STARS program, and oSTEM. She has also been an engaged mentor on and off campus and is a member of the Yale Ballroom Dance Team. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

Yang, a chemical engineering major, has conducted research on membrane technology at the water-energy nexus. He has been active in many student groups related to his field, helping to organize the Yale Undergraduate Science Olympiad and leading the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers at Yale. He has also participated in outreach to the New Haven community through Yale Resonance and the Chinese Adopted Siblings Program. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.

Yale may nominate up to four applicants each year to compete for Goldwater Scholarships. In the past decade, Yale has nominated 40 students for the award and had 22 winners and 8 honorable mentions. Students interested in the Goldwater Scholarship should seek advice from the Office of Fellowships Programs in the Center for International and Professional Experience. The annual process opens every September with deadlines in mid-November.

From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1,343 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 461 academic institutions to compete for the 2020 Goldwater scholarships. Of students who reported, 191 of the scholars are men, 203 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Fifty scholars are mathematics and computer science majors; 287 are majoring in the natural sciences; and 59 are majoring in engineering. Many of the scholars have published their research in leading journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences.

Goldwater Scholars have academic and research credentials that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 93 Rhodes Scholarships, 146 Marshall Scholarships, 170 Churchill Scholarships, 109 Hertz Fellowships, and numerous other distinguished awards, such as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

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