BOZEMAN — Three Montana State University students learned this week that they have received the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s premier scholarship for undergraduates studying math, natural sciences and engineering.
Josh Carter from Watertown, South Dakota, Zane Huttinga from Amsterdam, Montana, and John Ryter from Hamilton, Montana, each received the scholarship, which gives each student up to $7,500 a year for tuition, fees, books, and room and board.
MSU has now produced 67 Goldwater scholars, keeping the university one of the nation’s top institutions for number of recipients.
“I am incredibly proud of (the fact that MSU has now produced 67 Goldwater scholars),” said Ilse-Mari Lee, dean of the MSU Honors College and administrator of the Goldwater Scholarship program at MSU. “This is our country’s top engineering, science and math scholarship.
“For me it speaks volumes about the quality and level of motivation of our students, the undergraduate research opportunities available to them at our institution and, lastly, the faculty mentors that stand ready to support them every step of the way,” Lee added.
All three students are juniors in the MSU Honors College. Ryter is majoring in mechanical engineering in the MSU College of Engineering. Huttinga is majoring in mathematics in the MSU College of Letters and Science. Carter is double majoring in mechanical engineering and microbiology in the MSU College of Engineering, MSU College of Agriculture and MSU College of Letters and Science. He also plans to add a minor in biochemistry.
Lee said the three MSU Goldwater winners are united by the opportunities available to them in undergraduate research at MSU.
Another uniting factor is the faculty mentorship of each of the three. Huttinga’s mentor is Tomas Gedeon in mathematics. Ryter’s mentor is Roberta Amendola in mechanical engineering and Carter’s is Blake Wiedenheft, microbiology and immunology.
“It truly takes a village, and many other faculty members also supported these students in courses and lab experiences,” Lee noted.
Ryter is doing research in the High Temperature Materials Laboratory on campus with two specific projects: fuel cell corrosion and a NASA project researching coatings to protect against corrosion in turbine engines.
Ryter said he has always been interested in renewable energy, so when he was a freshman he sought out every engineering faculty member doing renewable energy research. He started working with Amendola the spring semester of his freshman year.
Ryter said while he applied to several larger universities, MSU was his best option in terms of affordability, and he had heard good things about undergraduate research opportunities at MSU.
“And those research opportunities have been stellar,” he said.
The Goldwater means that he will actually be able to afford continuing his research.
“I do have to pay rent. This will allow me to continue to do research and mentor younger students.”
It also will give him a leg-up in his application to graduate school, Ryter believes. Ryter hopes to earn a doctorate in either material science or electrical engineering with a focus on renewable energy applications. Following graduate school, he plans to garner experience working in industry prior to returning to academia as a professor.
Huttinga had originally planned to double major in biology and mathematics at MSU until he found he was more interested in math.
“A major factor in that decision was my instructor, Rob Malo, who set aside time in some of our lectures for a lot more interesting topics than just what was on the syllabus,” Huttinga said. “I ultimately decided to focus on math because I found it more interesting.”
Huttinga is currently working on a project with Gedeon and Bree Cummins, a postdoctoral researcher in mathematics, to modify existing mathematical models for gene regulatory networks.
“We hope to apply our work to a few gene regulatory networks implicated in cancer,” Huttinga said.
After graduation, Huttinga plans to attend graduate school, with an interest in the University of Washington or the City University of New York (CUNY). He is also open to the possibility of studying abroad and is learning Spanish and German in his free time.
Ultimately, Huttinga would like to go into research in mathematics, possibly in topology or functional analysis.
Carter said he chose to attend MSU because of the university’s setting near the mountains and its strong undergraduate research program.
“It’s an awesome place to go to school, and MSU also provides a really unique opportunity for undergraduates to get in the lab early,” he said. “My experience here has been incredibly valuable.”
Carter has worked for the past three years in Wiedenheft’s laboratory. There, Carter has been working with a team to understand the mechanisms bacteria use to defend themselves from infection by viruses. The work is laying the foundation for what could be new treatments for a host of diseases.
His research has resulted in four papers, including one of which he was co-first author and another on which he was sole first author. Carter has also helped present research from the lab at the Honors College Freshman Research Symposium, and he was selected to present research results at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Kentucky. In addition, he presented posters at conferences in Berlin and at Rockefeller University in New York.
Carter’s research has been supported by numerous research fellowships and awards, including a research fellowship from the MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship for Undergraduate Research, the Irving Weissman scholarship and Montana INBRE.
Carter said his future plans include pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and specializing in prosthetics development.
Portions of research reported in this story were supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P20GM103474. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Contact: Ilse-Mari Lee, dean, MSU Honors College, (406) 994-4110 or firstname.lastname@example.org