Luke Oltrogge of Absarokee is the 47th MSU student to win the nation's premier scholarship for undergraduates studying science and math. Oltrogge learned about his award over the weekend while waiting to board a ski lift at Big Sky. His mother had heard about it from a friend and called to ask if he had any good news for her.
"She always thinks I keep things from her," laughed the MSU junior who told her he had nothing to report.
Jane Oltrogge then told her son that he had won a Goldwater, the second major scholarship he received in a week. Already a Presidential Scholar with a 4.0 grade point average, Oltrogge had learned a few days earlier that he had also received a Beckman Scholarship, an award for elite undergraduate researchers. The Goldwater Scholarship will provide Oltrogge up to $7,500 a year for two years of undergraduate education and retain MSU's standing as one of the nation's top schools for receiving Goldwaters.
"It's major, and it's significant," said Michael Miles, director of the Honors Program and coordinator of Goldwater Scholarships at MSU.
Oltrogge, an undergraduate student who researches oxidative stress and works with nanomaterials, credits his Absarokee science teachers, his MSU adviser, and his grandfather for his interest in science. Catherine Frazer taught Oltrogge in junior high. Kevin Chandler taught him in high school. Gene Sharp, Oltrogge's grandfather, once headed MSU's Department of Plant Pathology.
It's no coincidence, Oltrogge added, that two students who've worked in Trevor Douglas' laboratory at MSU have received Goldwater Scholarships. Bridgid Crowley of Helena received the award in 2005.
"He just has a really creative approach to research," Oltrogge said about Douglas who, with Mark Young, creates tiny cages out of protein viruses. They adapt the cages for a variety of purposes like delivering drugs to specific parts of the body.
Oltrogge noted that Chris Chandler, one of his best friends from Absorakee and his science teacher's son, also received a Goldwater this year. Chandler attends the University of Idaho at Moscow.
"Some of the best and brightest young men and women come to us from rural Montana," Miles commented. He added that Oltrogge is quick to credit others, but he has the right stuff within himself, including an instinctive humility.
"Einstein said imagination is far more important than knowledge," Miles said. "When you combine Luke's intelligence, imagination, passion and insatiable curiosity, you have the total package for success.
"He brings a serious work ethic that stems from growing up in a small, rural environment," Miles continued. "He possesses a full heart and engaging intellect. He is a rich and balanced human being."
Miles said Oltrogge is a sixth-generation Montanan whose family were homesteaders and pioneers in territorial Montana.
Oltrogge said he plans to become a professor who both teaches and conducts research. In his spare time, he plays piano at the Absarokee Congregational Church. He also plays tuba, euphonium and bass with the University Band. Besides skiing, he enjoys mountaineering and scuba diving.
Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or firstname.lastname@example.org