Three promising Yale student scientists named Goldwater Scholars

The scholarships named for a former U.S. senator encourage research careers in STEM.
Hannah Barsouk, Molly Hill, and Parisa Vaziri

Hannah Barsouk, Molly Hill, and Parisa Vaziri

Three Yale College juniors — Hannah Barsouk, Molly Hill, and Parisa Vaziri — are among the 438 U.S. college students awarded Goldwater Scholarships for the 2024-2025 academic year (along with another 70 sophomores awarded the scholarship last year, who will receive a second year of support). The scholarships, named for the late U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, encourage students to pursue research careers in the fields of natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics.

The Goldwater Scholarships, which are among the most eminent undergraduate awards in these fields, are supported by the Goldwater Foundation and by an ongoing partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense National Defense Education Program (NDEP).

The Yale awardees were selected from a pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors who were nominated by 446 academic institutions. Virtually all recipients say they intend to obtain a Ph.D., and many of have already published research in leading professional journals and presented their work at professional society conferences.

Hannah Barsouk, of Morse College, is pursuing a joint master’s and bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry (MB&B). They conduct research in the laboratory of Ronald Breaker, Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and professor of MB&B, studying an Ornate, Large, Extremophilic (OLE) class of non-coding RNAs theorized to be ancient regulators of stress response in bacteria. Prior to Yale, they worked with Professor Allyson O’Donnell at the University of Pittsburgh, researching alternative energy utilization pathways which are conserved from yeast to humans. Barsouk is a peer tutor for the MB&B biochemistry sequence, peer mentor for the major, and outreach coordinator for the Yale Science Magazine. After graduation, they intend to pursue a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, and hope to continue studying ancient biology and the molecular evolution of life.

Molly Hill, of Grace Hopper College, is studying ecology and evolutionary biology, and plans to double major in Humanities. She studies bird plumages and behavior in the lab of Richard Prum, the William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, including the range of iridescent colors produced by birds. She also researches the adolescent behavior of seabirds and plans to study the function of immature plumages in adolescent herring gulls at the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island, in New Brunswick, Canada, this summer. Previously, she studied the evolution of Cyanolyca jays at Occidental College, where she recently published a paper calling for the recognition of a new species of jay.

Parisa Vaziri, of Saybrook College, is majoring in neuroscience. She has been part of the Hahn Fellowship Program at Yale and since her first year has worked in the lab of Damon Clark, associate professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and professor of physics and neuroscience, studying the neuroscience of motion detection in both humans and fruit flies. Last summer, Vaziri worked in Professor Tom Clandin’s lab at Stanford University, where she also studied motion detection algorithms. Before coming to Yale, she conducted taste reception and neurodegeneration research on fruit flies in Professor Kristin Scott’s lab at the University of California, Berkeley. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Vaziri built a makeshift neuroscience lab in her bathroom to continue conducting research. Her bathroom lab research garnered her social and mainstream media attention and landed her a spot as a finalist in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, which is the oldest and most prestigious STEM competition in the country for high school students. Aside from research, Vaziri enjoys playing the cello and piano, writing poetry, fishing, and spending time with her cat. In the future, she hopes to become a neuroscience professor who leads a lab and teaches students.

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