Goldwater Awards Support Advanced Undergraduate Research

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The scholarships support work in natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics.

Aditi Deokar ’25, Gavin Fry ’25, and Caroline Conway ’24
From left, Aditi Deokar ’25, Gavin Fry ’25, and Caroline Conway ’24 have won Goldwater Scholarships. (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

Three Dartmouth undergraduates are among 413 college and university sophomores and juniors from across the country to receive Goldwater Scholarships to support their pursuit of research careers in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics.

For more than 30 years, the Goldwater Foundation, named in honor of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, has partnered with the Department of Defense to fund the Goldwater scholarships to support “the development of scientific talent essential to maintaining our nation’s competitive advantage,” according to the program website.

Each Goldwater scholar annually receives recognition and up to $7,500 per full academic year. The scholars from Dartmouth are:

Caroline Conway ’24

Caroline Conway ’24
Caroline Conway ’24 (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

Early on in high school Conway knew her future would involve research in science, but coming to Dartmouth made her realize “how much I wanted to study mental illness in the lab.”

The Goldwater scholarship will support her research in the Social Computation Representation and Prediction Laboratory run by Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Mark Thornton. The SCRAP Lab focuses on the mental and neural systems that help humans make sense of the social world.

Conway, who is also a Women in Science Project research intern and a Presidential Scholar, wants to build on work from the SCRAP Lab to explore how humans interpret vocalizations using mental maps. These maps are defined by a multi-dimensional grid that might, for example, place a stimulus along a spectrum of more or less warm, or powerful, or competent.

“What has me really excited, and what I want to do long term, is to continue this work to learn as much as I can about the neurocognition underlying mental illness,” says Conway, a native of North Carolina majoring in cognitive science with minors in psychology and Hispanic studies. She points to prior research that has identified auditory and linguistic indications of mental illness, such as psychosis, just from recordings of patients.

Outside of the lab, Conway is co-president of the Dartmouth Mental Health Student Union, dedicated to fostering inclusive discussions of mental health, promoting existing resources, and creating new initiatives and programs to promote mental health to all Dartmouth students.

She is not sure yet if she will pursue a PhD in cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, computational neuroscience, or another related field but “whichever one I do, I’d like to use it as the lens to examine the mind and specifically mental illness in the mind. I think that’s undeniably one of the biggest problems of society right now, and especially for my generation.”

Aditi Deokar ’25

Aditi Deokar ’25
Aditi Deokar ’25 (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

The biology and chemistry double major knew from an early age that she wanted to find a treatment for the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus. She began working in the lab of Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Yina Huang before Dartmouth orientation.

“I knew I wanted to research lupus because I actually have lupus. I was diagnosed with this when I was eight and ever since I knew,” says Deokar, who is from Massachusetts. “There’s no cure for lupus. There are treatments which alleviate the symptoms, but nothing that gets to the root cause. I have an idea for a treatment that would hopefully be able to do that.”

Deokar, who also received a Gina Finzi Student Fellowship from the Lupus Foundation of America, is investigating, under Huang’s mentorship, if there is a treatment that will attack plasma cells that produce antibodies which attack lupus patients’ own cells.

“Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means the immune system goes into overdrive. The job of the treatments that I want to create would be to somehow shut that down,” she says.

Deokar, who has already earned a high score on the Medical College Admission Test, completing all the MCAT prerequisites in her sophomore year, calls Huang “an amazing mentor.” The Geisel School of Medicine professor accepted Deokar into the Huang Laboratory, starting her off with projects that would help her master lab techniques, and Huang meets with Deokar one-on-one weekly, keeping her on her accelerated path.

Deokar’s goal is to go on to an MD/PhD in immunology directly after she graduates from Dartmouth, a path that is highly competitive.

“Getting the Goldwater definitely will help. I feel like getting this grant gives me some credibility—that there are some experts out there who think that the research and my thinking about my research is PhD level,” she says.

Gavin Fry ’25

Gavin Fry ’25
Gavin Fry ’25 (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

“I’m broadly interested in climate science but at heart I’m a meteorologist—I love weather,” says Fry, who has worked with mentor Associate Professor of Earth Sciences Erich Osterberg to focus on what he calls atmospheric science and communication.

Fry says support at Dartmouth has enabled him to pull together classes from earth sciencesgeographyenvironmental studiesphysicsmathematics, and speech to prepare him not only for graduate studies in meteorology, but also to pursue his goal of becoming a liaison between atmospheric scientists and government policy makers.

“I’m interested in better understanding the characteristics of extreme weather, and then understanding how extreme weather may change in response to climate change,” says Fry, who is a first-generation student from rural Missouri. “That has all sorts of implications for policy and planning for ways we can prepare and examine the things we can do to mitigate these risks.”

Fry will use the Goldwater funding to build on work he conducted with the National Weather Service in Memphis compiling a Mid-South severe weather climatology study. The report gives an overview of the instances of tornadoes and severe weather in southern Missouri, northeast Arkansas, western Tennessee, and northern Mississippi, Fry says.

Previous research has suggested that climate change may influence a shift in the frequency of severe weather from the Great Plains to this Mid-South region, which has more densely populated communities of low-income individuals and people of color, Fry says.

“That research has direct consequences for communicating that risk to the public and getting that message out … making communities more aware of the characteristics of severe weather in a particular region,” he says. It also underlines the critical role science communicators have to play in helping to inform policy makers on all levels of the risks and possible responses to the threat of severe weather.

Fry has also received an Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which will support his work at NOAA next year and which he hopes will open the door to a career with the agency.

“As a low-income and first-gen student, prior to coming to Dartmouth, I never would have suspected that somebody from my background could have these opportunities,” Fry says. “Coming here—having the resources to succeed, having the help, making the connections—has been instrumental in my ability to succeed, and beyond that, it gave me the confidence to say that I can actually apply to do these things.”

To learn more about how to apply for Goldwater and other scholarships, visit Dartmouth’s Fellowship Advising Office.

Bill Platt