Sewanee student wins prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

by Alysse Schultheis
Executive Editor

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields. The Scholarship, the most prestigious undergraduate award given in the sciences, is awarded to about 300 college sophomores and juniors nationwide. A maximum of $7500 per academic year is granted, and the scholarship is awarded based on merit. After fierce competition, Taylor Morris (C’16) was awarded the 2014 Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

In awarding the scholarships, the Foundation Board of Trustees considers the nominee’s field of study and career objectives, and the extent to which that individual has the commitment and potential to make a significant contribution to his or her field. This is judged by letter of references, essays written by the student, and prior research experience. Dean Summers was Morris’ advisor for the process. He helped edit the essay, as did Professor Bachman and Professor Durig. Morris was very grateful for their help with his essay.

Morris’ essay focused on his prior work in modeling exoplanet transits. A major goal of exoplanet science, for which knowledge beyond planet size and mass is necessary, is the discovery of habitable planets. Having had hands-on lab experience in both astronomy and biology, Morris has “become very interested in the potential intersection of the two fields. Extra-solar planet characterization, particularly with respect to traits such as atmospheric composition, has the potential to aid in the search for Earth-like planets by supplyingknowledge of exoplanets that cannot currently be fully predicted by theory.”

Now that he has won the scholarship, Morris hopes to help other Sewanee students pursue the Goldwater over the next two years since the University can nominate up to four students each year. The scholarship, Morris says, “will help me pursue my dreams of attending graduate school in astrophysics, and shows the quality of science education available at Sewanee.”