Two New College of Florida students, one exploring uses of medical imaging technologies in diagnosing neurological disorders, and another who has documented coral disease in the Caribbean, have been awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarships, the premier U.S. undergraduate award recognizing students showing potential to make significant contributions to mathematics, science and engineering.
Caitlyn Ralph and Constance Sartor, both from Orlando, were among just 240 students nationwide – and just six at Florida colleges – to receive scholarships. In addition, New College student Lukas Heath, from Germany, received an honorable mention.
Ralph is a third-year computer science AOC who is applying her studies to the field of data visualization and neuroscience. Her scholarship recognizes two of her research projects with scientists at the Mind Research Network and University of New Mexico, as well as work dating back to high school.
In one project, Ralph examined the use of diffusion tensor imaging to diagnose a neurodegenerative disease called vascular cognitive impairment. In her other project, she created an algorithm in computer code to analyze data from functional resting-state magnetic resonance imaging (RS-fMRI) data.
In her application, Ralph noted that she hopes to mentor women and other under-represented groups in the field of computer science. Her professors praise her curiosity, fearlessness, ability to work with both experts and fellow students, and to communicate her results.
At New College, she has served as a resident advisor, chief of staff of the student government, staff writer for the student newspaper, and co-founder of the new student research journal, Aeolus. She also writes for Alternative Press, an international music and entertainment magazine.
Despite her achievements, the Goldwater News came as a surprise. “To be honest, even though I worked tirelessly on my application, I never thought in a million years I would be named a Goldwater Scholar,” Ralph said. “I got the email while doing some work in a Starbucks on a Saturday morning. Everyone was so quiet around me, and I wanted to burst out with happiness.”
Her first thought was to call her mother, which she did, followed by sending thanks to her academic advisor, New College computer science professor Dr. Matt Lepinski, mathematics professor Dr. Patrick McDonald, psychology professor Dr. Peter Cook, associate director of the Center for Engagement and Opportunity, Courtney Hughes, and Dr. Arvind Caprihan, her principal investigator at Mind Research Network.
Ralph plans to pursue a research career in the field of computational neuroscience.
Sartor is a third-year biology and chemistry AOC whose long interest in ecology has taken her to the Caribbean, the Everglades and Yellowstone National Park, among other locations.
As the recipient of a National Science Foundation undergraduate research grant, Sartor worked with Mote Marine Laboratory’s Dr. Erinn Muller to examine how classic yellow band disease is transmitted in reefs at St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In 2016 Sartor was awarded a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hollings Scholarship, which led to a summer research project where she examined ways to update nautical charts using satellite imaging and other data, to insure accuracy after changes wrought by Superstorm Sandy. This summer, she will intern with the NOAA in Hawaii establishing a coral nursery.
She has been a backcountry intern at Yellowstone National Park, assisting in management of invasive fish species through surveys, gillnetting, radio tracking and tagging and other methods.
Sartor’s academic research at New College work include geographic information systems (GIS) analysis for the Great Lakes Wetlands Restoration Project, and cataloging the gecko species of Sarasota and Manatee counties.
In her free time, she has participated in python roundups in the Everglades, volunteers at Mote Marine, participates in orienteering competitions and serves as co-president of New College’s Bull Sharks scuba diving club. She is certified as a scientific diver by the American Academy of Underwater Sciences. She also is an accomplished muralist, and has painted murals currently viewable at Yellowstone, Mote Marine, New College and several other locations.
“I just want to express how honored I am to have received this scholarship,” Sartor said. “It’s nice to have external affirmation that the hard work I’m doing is paying off.” She thanks all her New College professors, particularly biology professor Dr. Emily Saarinen, and Mote’s Dr. Muller, for their support and dedication to her education.
Sartor plans to pursue a doctorate in biological and ecological engineering or ecology, conduct research on invasive species and eventually start her own ecological engineering research company.
Lukas Heath, a third-year marine biology AOC from Germany, received an honorable mention from the Goldwater Foundation. He has conducted research with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on invasive carp in Illinois waterways. His New College work includes investigations into the sensory systems of pinfish and blind cavefish.
The 2017 Goldwater recipients were chosen from a field of 1,286 students nominated by the faculties of their colleges. Of the 240 recipients, 22 are majoring in mathematics, 153 in sciences, 51 in engineering and 14 in computer science.
The Goldwater Foundation was founded in 1986 with the purpose of helping provide the country with a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by assisting college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields. It was created to honor Sen. Barry Goldwater for his service as a soldier and legislator.
The scholarships are awarded to sophomores and juniors who plan to pursue research-oriented careers in mathematics, science and engineering. Since they were first awarded in 1989, there have been 7,921 recipients, who have gone on to win 89 Rhodes Scholarships, 127 Marshall Awards, 145 Churchill Scholarships and other awards.
The scholarships can be for one or two years, and cover the costs of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to $7,500 a year.