Notre Dame students named Goldwater Scholars

Author: Stephanie Healey

The College of Science is pleased to announce that Jacob Haley and Ellie Norby have been named Goldwater Scholars. They were selected from thousands of applicants nationwide to receive the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for the 2014-15 academic year. In addition, Samantha Piekos has earned an honorable mention.

Congress established the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The purpose of the foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.

Jacob Haley

Jacob Haley

Jacob Haley is a junior honors mathematics and economics double major from Murfreesboro, Tenn. “I decided to major in mathematics because of how much I enjoyed Honors Calculus I,” says Haley.  His passion for mathematics has evolved as an undergraduate and by the time the spring 2014 semester is finished, he will have completed four graduate-level mathematics courses.

Last summer, Haley completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the College of William and Mary under the direction of Charles Johnson. He is also member of the Seminar of Undergraduate Mathematics Research (SUMR), a program for the most gifted mathematics students at Notre Dame, and is particularly interested in algebraic geometry and number theory. Haley plans to attend graduate school for mathematics and credits Frank Connolly, professor emeritus of mathematics, for having a big influence on this decision. 

In addition to the Goldwater Scholarship, Haley earned the Norman and Beatrice Haaser Mathematics Scholarship and a SUMR scholarship in 2013 from the Department of Mathematics.


Ellie Norby

Ellie Norby

Sophomore Ellie Norby is a biochemistry major and theology minor from Bloomington, Minn. “I am studying biochemistry because I love the material,” Norby says. “The analytic thinking required for chemistry is engaging and honestly kind of fun, and when it happens in a biological context I find beauty in discovering how life works.”

She is an undergraduate researcher in the laboratory of Holly Goodson, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, where she uses computer simulations to study the chemical rules underlying cell machinery.  Doing research outside of the classroom has helped Norby discover her career path after Notre Dame. “I first thought about a Ph.D. when I was tutoring chemistry as a freshman here and discovered that I enjoy teaching the subject just as much as I enjoy learning it,” she explained. “I wasn't sure about grad school, however, until I knew how I felt about research. Turns out I love that too. Facing a question with no known answer and developing a means of answering it by my own power is thrilling.”

Outside of science, Norby is very involved in her dorm life. She is the liturgical music co-coordinator and participated on the freshman orientation committee last fall. She also plays intramural volleyball and basketball.

Since she earned the Goldwater Scholarship as a sophomore, Norby will receive a scholarship for both her junior and senior years.


Samantha Piekos

Samantha Piekos

Junior biological sciences and psychology double major Samantha Piekos of Naperville, Ill., has been given an honorable mention by the Goldwater committee. She is a member of the Honors Program in Biological Sciences and is an undergraduate researcher in the laboratory of David Hyde, The Rev. Howard J. Kenna C.S.C. Memorial Director of the Center for Zebrafish Research. She studies retinal regeneration using the zebrafish as a model, specifically studying the transcription factors and signaling pathways that are activated in rod precursors during retinal regeneration.

“I have always been fascinated by the idea that I can investigate a phenomenon that no one has ever studied before,” Piekos explains. “I became interested with the creative intellectual freedom a career in research allows and its potential to impact medicine.” Her summer research was supported by the College of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (COS-SURF) last year and she will participate in the Notre Dame REU program this coming summer.

After graduation, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in genetics to become a university faculty member and study regenerative biology.

Current students who are interested in learning more about the Goldwater Scholarship can contact Jeffrey Thibert, Ph.D., assistant director of national fellowships in the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement, for more information. CUSE National Fellowships works with Notre Dame undergraduates to help them discern which national fellowships might be the best fit for them, given their commitments, and then offers guidance throughout the application process.