Jay Stringer, a junior majoring biochemistry from Helena, and Angela "Angie" Kimmel of Seeley Lake, a 27-year-old junior with double majors in computer science and electrical engineering, are two of 300 national winners of 2004 Goldwater Scholarships, the Goldwater Foundation announced this week.
They were selected from 1,113 applications in the disciplines of mathematics, science and engineering. Stringer's and Kimmel's scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year for two years of undergraduate schooling.
With Stringer and Kimmel's Goldwater Scholarships, 43 MSU students have received the prestigious award. MSU is among the top 10 institutions in the country in producing Goldwater scholars.
Stringer, who graduated from Helena's Capital High School, said he knew in his sophomore biology class when the teacher showed DNA's double helix structure that he wanted to be a scientist.
"I really enjoyed seeing how everything worked," he recalled. "It was so complex and amazing."
He enrolled at MSU for the quality of its chemistry program. When Stringer asked MSU chemistry professor David Singel, his freshmen honors chemistry professor, for a recommendation for a summer research job, Singel provided Stringer with a research opportunity in his own lab. Stringer has worked in Singel's lab since, collaborating on research that will provide a better understanding of how red blood cells sense oxygen levels and alter the tension of small, resistance vessels to direct the flow of blood to tissues most in need of oxygenation. His work has applications in the study of hypoxic vasodilation, which is well known in physiology, but with a chemical basis that remains a major mystery of human biology.
"Jay has done excellent work that includes advanced kinetic analyses of the reactions of nitric oxide and human hemoglobin," Singel said. "He is a fine student and does excellent research. This is a rare combination in undergraduates; Jay really deserves this award."
Stringer plays guitar and enjoys camping and was the president of the Quad Residence Hall. An exchange student in Argentina while in high school, he still likes to speak Spanish at any opportunity. The son of Bob and Peggy Stringer of Helena, he plans to attend medical school where he will obtain both an M.D. and Ph.D.
Stringer credits his parents with support that enabled him to maintain the academic excellence that resulted in the award.
"They supported me financially so that I didn't have to work and I could research and spend time keeping my grades up," he said. "I appreciate them a lot."
Kimmel said a "180-degree turnaround" in her grades during her re-entry to college contributed to her Goldwater Scholarship. Kimmel spent one year at MSU. Two majors and poor grades later, she left for six years.
After stints as a waitress and a bookkeeper for construction companies in Montana and Las Vegas, Kimmel decided to return to MSU. "I hated my job," she said.
Kimmel said she had always been fascinated with computers, so she chose computer science and electrical engineering when she re-enrolled in MSU's Fresh Start Program, which wiped away poor grades from her first foray into higher education. Kimmel is now an Engineering Ambassador for the MSU College of Engineering and she said she often tells students that coming back to college was one of the best decisions she's ever made.
"It's never too late to succeed," she said. "When I returned, I knew what I wanted to do. I tell people it's a lot of hard work but totally worth it."
Kimmel, who now has a 3.94 grade point average, is also the president of the campus Association for Women in Computing, the new president of the MSU chapter of Tau Beta Phi national engineering society and is active in Eta Kappa Nu electrical engineering honorary as well as the MSU Recycling Program. She also works in the lab of electrical engineering professor David Dickensheets, where she is helping to build a new type of miniature spectrometer that may be used in space exploration.
"Angie's skill set is tremendous, coupling solid understanding of computers and programming with a clear aptitude for lab-work," Dickensheets said. "She understands the big picture for the research, reflecting a level of academic maturity uncommon in undergraduate students. She is truly terrific, exactly the type of student this award aims to recognize."
Kimmel, the daughter of Sue and Jeff Heagy in Seely Lake and Bill Kimmel in Twin Falls, Idaho, said her future plans call for earning a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. She hopes to eventually teach at a college or a university.
Victoria O'Donnell, director of MSU's University Honors Program and MSU's administrator of the Goldwater Scholarship Program, said it is satisfying to have the Barry M. Goldwater Foundation recognize such gifted and highly motivated students.
"By awarding the Goldwater Scholarship to them, the (Goldwater) Foundation is also recognizing their mentors and the quality of education that they are receiving at Montana State University," O'Donnell said. "The Goldwater Scholarship is more than a monetary award, for it represents the belief that its recipients will make great contributions to math and science in the future."
Other top institutions in the country with similarly high numbers of Goldwater Scholars include Harvard/Radcliffe, Princeton, Duke, Kansas State, California Institute of Technology, Penn State, University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana, Johns Hopkins and Washington University in St. Louis. Congress established the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship program in 1986 to support outstanding students in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.
Two University of Montana students also received 2004 Goldwater Scholarships. They include Dawson Dunning, a wildlife biology major, and Amanda Ng, who is majoring in biology and human biology. Ng graduated from Bozeman High School in 2000. Her parents are David and Rita Ng of Bozeman.
Contact: Victoria O'Donnell, University Honors Program (406) 994-4110