The highly competitive award is designed to advance the academic pursuits of sophomores and juniors in colleges and universities who are pursuing research careers in natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.
Elon junior Caroline “Ashlyn” Crain and Elon sophomore Anna Altmann have been named 2021 recipients of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. Crain and Altmann are among the 410 recipients selected this year from a pool of more than 5,000 applicants from across the country.
The scholarship is awarded by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which was established by Congress in 1986 to honor the late senator. It’s a highly competitive award that is designed to advance the academic pursuits of sophomores and juniors in colleges and universities who are pursuing research careers in natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.
Crain, who is originally from Maryville, Tennessee, is majoring in biology with a minor in environmental education. She is a Lumen Scholar, a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Beta Beta Beta national honor societies and the Elon Biology Club. She plans to pursue a doctorate in coastal and wetland ecology after graduating from Elon as she seeks a career in research with an organization such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before obtaining a faculty position at a research institution.
Her Lumen Scholar research is titled, “Mitigating carbon emissions: Four strategies for sequestering atmospheric CO2 in trees,” and her research mentor is David Vandermast, associate professor of biology.
Crain says that conducting undergraduate research at Elon has been one of the most rewarding parts of her education so far, as she has been able to holistically study what she is passionate about with the authentic support of her mentors and peers.
“I believe that the Goldwater will allow me to continue grow in charisma and drive towards pursuing research following graduation,” Crain says. “When I am conducting research, I am able to be a part of the collaboration and communication of scientific data to a wide range of individuals. It is the interconnectivity of research that drives me to continue. I am humbled by the encouragement and support I have received throughout this process, but even more so excited by this opportunity to share my research in ecosystem-based management with more people.”
Vandermast notes that Crain has taken part in meetings with professionals working in the world of carbon sequestration and she co-wrote a report for Duke University’s Carbon Offset Initiative, for whom we conducted a peer-review for one of their urban forest carbon offset projects.
“Ashlyn is one of the most intuitive students I have worked with as both a student in the classroom and as a research mentee,” Vandermast said. “She immediately grasps the nuances inherent in the work we are doing together and communicating with her has always felt more like it would with a peer than with a student,” he said.
Originally from Burlington, N.C., Altmann is an Honors Fellow who is majoring in chemistry and computer science. Only the second Goldwater Scholar from Elon to win the award as a sophomore, she is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi national honor society, the American Chemical Society Club, and serves as a consultant for the Elon MakerHub. She plans to pursue a doctorate in environmental chemistry and then work as a researcher studying environmental remediation.
Her research at Elon is focused on the trace metals present in cigarettes, and the leaching of those metals from smoked cigarette butts into different environmentally relevant solutions. Assistant Professor of Chemistry Justin Clar is her mentor for her research.
Altmann first became involved in environmental chemistry through field research in rivers while a high school student, an experience that solidified her desire to learn how chemical processes interact with the environment. She views the Goldwater Scholarship as a validation of her goals and her potential.
“This award has given me the confidence that I have what it takes to be a successful environmental chemist,” Altmann said. “Receiving this award serves as a reminder to me that I can accomplish more than I may believe.”
Clar said that working with students like Altmann are why he loves teaching at Elon, and he has seen her progress since she first started her research during the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience at Elon in 2020.
“Undergraduate research gives students the opportunity to take the fundamental chemical properties outlined in their coursework and apply them to real-world problems,” Clar said. “Anna has continued to make tremendous strides as a researcher and is clearly on the trajectory to be an impactful scholar as she completes her undergraduate degree. I am thrilled to continue to work with her during the next two years!”
Crain and Altmann are the fourth and fifth Goldwater Scholars from Elon. The Goldwater Scholarship was previously awarded to Mariana Kneppers ’18, Kelsey Van Dalfsen ’12 and Geoffrey Lynn ’07.
Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 95 Rhodes Scholarships, 150 Marshall Scholarships, 170 Churchill Scholarships, 109 Hertz Fellowships and numerous other distinguished awards like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.
Elon students and recent alumni interested in the Goldwater Scholarship or other nationally competitive fellowships are invited to contact the National and International Fellowships Office.
A previous version of this article stated that Anna Altmann was the first sophomore from Elon to win a Goldwater Scholarship. The first Elon student to receive the Goldwater Scholarship, Geoffrey Lynn ’07, was a sophomore when he was selected.