Montana State University

Three MSU students win prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

March 31, 2006 -- By Carol Schmidt, MSU News


Three MSU Honors students have received Goldwater Scholarships, a prestigious national scholarship rewarding excellence in science and math. They are (l-r): Eric M. Morschhauser of Wappinger Falls, N.Y., Brittney Pollard of Boise and Christoffer Renner of Bozeman. MSU photo by Jay Thane.    High-Res Available

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Two Montana State University students working on the cutting-edge of paleontology research and a multi-talented student pursuing laser physics are the most recent MSU students to receive the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for undergraduate excellence in science and math.

Christoffer Renner of Bozeman, a junior majoring in physics, Eric M. Morschhauser of Wappinger Falls, N.Y., and Brittney M. Pollard of Boise, Idaho, both juniors majoring in earth sciences, have each received a 2006 Goldwater Scholarship, the Goldwater Foundation announced this week.

The three students, all members of MSU's University Honors Program, are among the 320 students in the nation to receive the coveted scholarship that pays up to $7,500 a year for two years of undergraduate education.

The three recipients bring to 46 the number of MSU students who have received Goldwater Scholarships, making MSU among the top institutions in the country for producing Goldwater scholars. Other top institutions include Harvard, Princeton and Cal Tech. Last year, MSU student Bridgid Crowley of Helena received a Goldwater.

The students' awards "speak directly to the quality of the undergraduate experience at MSU and to the model we use in which every student is required to have a research or creative experience before they graduate," said MSU President Geoff Gamble. "Clearly this approach has been recognized recently by the Carnegie Foundation in putting us in their highest tier in research and graduate institutions."

Renner, a graduate of Bozeman Christian School, aspires to earn a doctorate in physics, one of several interests he has cultivated during his time at MSU. An accomplished pianist, Renner will graduate next year with a double major in physics and math and a minor in music. Renner's research at MSU has included work in MSU's Spectrum Lab studying optic waveforms, which have possible application in communications devices. Last summer he had an internship at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., working on a project that used light waves to beam communications to space probes and satellites.

When not in a lab, Renner is active in Christ's Church of Bozeman, has been a coach of students in the Math Counts contest and teaches piano lessons. He is the son of Cliff and Debbie Renner of Bozeman.

Morschhauser recently returned from China where he studied fossils of extinct birds that lived during the time of dinosaurs. His research into the birds, housed at the Dalian Museum of Natural History, is under the direction of MSU paleontologist David Varricchio. Morschhauser says that the opportunity to conduct such research as an undergraduate is one reason he has never regretted coming to MSU on a Presidential Scholarship.

"I technically shouldn't exist," said Morschhauser, who plans to earn a doctorate in paleontology. "The kind of work I'm doing is unheard of by an undergraduate. I really could not see it happening anywhere else other than MSU."

Morschhauser is active in the University Christian Fellowship, Grace Bible Church, MSU's Dead Lizard Society, an organization of students interested in paleontology, and is an officer in the MSU chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Pollard is a geology major who works with MSU paleontologist Jack Horner in the research of fossil microbes. She said geology has interested her since she was a child and MSU's reputation in the field drew her from her native Idaho. She met Horner while he was team-teaching an honors class and soon was working in his lab trying to determine why some fossils are invaded by microbes.

Pollard's goal is to earn a doctorate in earth sciences, which will allow her to teach paleontology at a university level and conduct research. In addition to her research, she is a member of MSU's lacrosse team, an officer in MSU's Earth Sciences Association and a member of the Dead Lizard Society.

Michael Miles, director of MSU's University Honors Program and MSU's administrator of the Goldwater Scholarship Program, said that all three students reflect talent and motivation inspired by MSU professors.

"These students would be the first to tell you that the fact that all three of them aspire to be teachers themselves is a testimony to the personal commitment of their professors," Miles said.

Michael Miles, University Honors Program (406) 994-4732, auhmm@montana.edu