Two CSU students receive Goldwater Scholarship Awards

2020 CSU Goldwater Scholars

CSU students Raegan Petch (left) and Jessica Roberts are each recipients of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship Award.

Two Colorado State University students are recipients of the country’s top undergraduate award dedicated to fostering the next generation of research leaders in natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.

CSU students Raegan Petch and Jessica Roberts – both in College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences – each received a Goldwater Scholarship Award from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. The students were among the 396 sophomores and juniors selected from an estimated total pool of more 5,000 in the annual competition.

The Goldwater Foundation named a total of nine scholars from five Colorado institutions, with CSU, the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado College and the Colorado School of Mines each getting two; and the University of Denver getting one. Over the past three years, CSU has had the most Goldwater Scholars in the state with a total of six.

CSU students were nominated by a selection committee of faculty through the Office for Scholarship and Fellowship Advising.

“Raegan and Jessica are outstanding students and innovative undergraduate researchers,” said Mary Swanson, program director of the Office for Scholarship and Fellowship Advising. “We are delighted that the Goldwater Foundation has chosen to recognize them as two of the nation’s most promising leaders in the STEM fields. They are very deserving of this honor, and we are exceptionally proud of them.”

2020-2021 CSU Goldwater Scholars

Raegan Petch

Raegan Petch

College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Honors Program Student
Major: Microbiology
Hometown: Elbert, Colorado

Raegan Petch caused a pleasant disruption in her family’s home when she informed her parents, who were working in the kitchen, about the news.

“I was so excited that I started yelling in my living room,” Petch said. “I was just so excited.”

Petch, a junior, said she originally wanted to be a clinical veterinarian. However, her work in the laboratories in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences sparked a passion for infectious disease research.

She said her work in the VandeWoude Laboratory, led by Professor Sue VandeWoude, allowed her to focus on the spillover of disease between domestic cats and pumas. The experience led to her interest in spillover of other pathogens and provided an area of interest for future research.

“The relationships that I have with my professors and the people who work in the labs have been really powerful,” she said. “They have pushed me in the right direction and helped me to make the most of all of the opportunities that I have been given at CSU.”

Petch – who jokingly said she spends more time in the labs than she probably should — plans to continue researching zoonotic diseases in graduate school and pursue a joint Ph.D./D.V.M. program.

“It’s such an honor,” she said. “It really just confirms that I’m on the right track with my career and the rest of my life. I wasn’t expecting it, but it was super exciting to hear the news.”

Jessica Roberts

Jessica Roberts

College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Honors Program Student
Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: Phoenix

Jessica Roberts also was at home in Phoenix when she opened the email that said she was a Goldwater Scholar that caused excitement.

For her, she said the news was confirmation of her work in the Synapse Biology and Cognition Laboratory, where her research focuses on the overstimulation of neural networks in Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s such an honor to know that along with all of these other brilliant undergraduates who are pursuing research that the Goldwater community has considered my research efforts to be significant and promising for my success in the future,” said Roberts, a sophomore at CSU.

Roberts said she enrolled at CSU to trade in Arizona’s desert scenery for the trees and four seasons of Colorado. While she originally started in health and exercise science, she said she became fascinated with how the brain works, which led her to Assistant Professor Seonil Kim’s Synapse Lab in the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Roberts, who plans to continue studying neurodegenerative diseases in graduate school, said the support of the neuroscience program has allowed her to grow as a researcher.

“You’re on the front of scientific discovery, and the data you’re collecting is something that will improve the understanding of the subject,” she said. “It’s just really exciting to know that you’re finding something new that people haven’t discovered yet.”

About the Goldwater Scholarship Awards

The scholarship program, named in honor of the late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater (R- Arizona), is the result of a partnership with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs.

Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 93 Rhodes Scholarships, 146 Marshall Scholarships, 170 Churchill Scholarships, 109 Hertz Fellowships and numerous other top awards.

“As it is vitally important that the Nation ensures that it has the scientific talent it needs to maintain its global competitiveness and security, we saw partnering with the Goldwater Foundation as a way to help ensure the U.S. is developing this talent,” said Jagadeesh Pamulapati, director of the NDEP program, in a release.

Current CSU freshmen and sophomores interested in applying for a Goldwater Scholarship can contact Mary Swanson at mary.swanson@colostate.edu.