2 UT Dallas Students Win Goldwater Scholarships

April 8, 2009

Two students — Mary Gurak and Alex Palmer — are recipients of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. It is the second year in a row that at least one UT Dallas scholar has won the award. 

The scholarships are awarded annually to accomplished collegians who are planning careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering. Congress established the scholarship in 1986 to honor U.S. Senator and 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry M. Goldwater. 

Gurak is a 20-year-old sophomore from Denison, Texas.  After graduating from UT Dallas with a bachelor’s degree in math, she hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in applied mathematics with an emphasis on physics.  She also plans to continue her research efforts with superconducting magnets.

She has conducted research at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and most recently worked with Dr. Ali Aliev in the Alan G. MacDiarmid Nanotech Institute at UT Dallas.  She is active in Math Club, Destination Imagination, intramural sports and Habitat for Humanity.

“I honestly didn’t expect to win; it came as a complete surprise,” Gurak said.  “I’m proud to bring such a prestigious award to UT Dallas.  The Goldwater Scholarship serves as a connection to endless opportunities in graduate school.”

Palmer, a 20-year-old junior from Midlothian, Texas, hopes to become a researcher or professor in an elementary physics specialty such as high energy physics or cosmology.

“UT Dallas has been consistently increasing its prestige and academic reputation,” Palmer said.  “I believe awards like the Goldwater reflect well on the University and help to extend that growth.”

Palmer currently is conducting high energy physics research under the supervision of Dr. Joe Izen.  Last summer, he completed an internship at LANL with Dr. Frank Timmes.  This summer, he will take part in an internship at CERN in Switzerland through the University of Michigan.  At UT Dallas, he is a Destination Imagination coach and an active member of the Society of Physics Students. He also writes for the alternative student newspaper A Modest Proposal.

Both Gurak and Palmer also are members of the University’s Eugene McDermott Scholars Program

Dr. Doug Dow, who oversees the University’s Office of Distinguished Scholarships, said the Goldwater award recognizes some of the most promising new scholars in their respective fields. 

“Both Alex and Marry personify hard work, creativity and professionalism,” said Dow, who is also the associate director of Collegium V and a clinical professor of government and politics. “For UT Dallas students to have won three Goldwater awards in two years signals the strong commitment by the University toward engaging students at an early stage in scientific research and in making them competitive at an international level.”  

Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prominent post-graduate fellowship programs.  Recent scholars have been awarded 73 Rhodes Scholarships, 102 Marshall Awards and numerous other distinguished fellowships.

UT Dallas’ previous two Goldwater recipients, Austin Swafford and Kassandra McLean, continue to study in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.  Swafford was recently accepted into the National Institutes of Health/Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program for fall 2009, and McLean works as a researcher at Raytheon.

In its 21-year history, the Goldwater Foundation has awarded 5,801 scholarships worth approximately $56 million.

UT Dallas Distinguished Scholarship Record
UT Dallas students are encouraged early in their academic careers to pursue intellectual opportunities like scientific research, which helps make them competitive at national and international levels.  In recent years, students here have received distinguished awards including the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the Critical Language Scholarship, the David L. Boren Fellowship, the Fulbright, the Golden Key Graduate Scholar Award, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the Marshall Scholarship and the National Institutes of Health-Oxford-Cambridge scholarship.  Dr. Douglas Dow oversees the University’s Office of Distinguished Scholarships.  The office provides information about prestigious scholarships, advises students through the application process, provides interviewing strategies and helps facilitate faculty-student contact.  Dow can be reached at [email protected].  

Media Contact: Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, [email protected]
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected]

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Mary Gurak plans to continue her research efforts with superconducting magnets. Mary Gurak
Alex Palmer   Alex Palmer currently is conducting high energy physics research under the supervision of a UT Dallas professor.

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November 16, 2018