Goldwater Scholarships allow students to pursue career dreams

After sophomore Amrita Karve’s friend died when she was in middle school, the student knew she wanted to devote her life to healing people.

“When my friend died from an aneurysm in eighth grade, I became more religious,” Karve said. “Understanding how people coped with life and death catalyzed my interest in medicine. I wanted to become part of that process.”

Thanks to the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, Karve is one step closer to her goal. Karve and sophomore Dan Mittelberger have won the scholarship and will receive up to $7,500 per year toward tuition and housing to encourage them to further their achievements in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

The GW students are two of 320 winners selected from a national field of 1,091 applicants.

Both Karve, who is part of the seven year B.A/M.D. program and an editor of Inquiry, GW’s undergraduate research journal, and Mittelberger, a double-major in physics and mathematics, said they are elated by their award.

“This scholarship was encouraging. It has helped to further solidify research as a very real possibility in my medical career,” Karve said.

“For me it’s the most important thing,” Mittelberger said. “The money is great but I’m (happier) about it helping my career.”

Both students grew up with a passion for science; Karve aspires to become a doctor and pursue research, and Mittelberger plans to pursue a post-doctorate degree leading to a career in research.

Mittelberger developed an interest for science early in life by reading the Illustrated Science Encyclopedia. “I knew every page. I loved it,” he said.

Each college or university can only nominate four students to the national competition. In order to gain GW’s nomination, the students completed an application consisting of a series of essays related to their interest in science and personal background.

“There are no interviews at the national level, so the nominees’ application materials must stand on their own,” Rachelle Heller, associate dean for academic affairs at the Mount Vernon Campus, said. “That means that reference letters and the students’ own work have to make the case that these are excellent, unique, engaging individuals worthy of the Goldwater Scholarship.”

Because of the competition and prestige associated with the award, the University has heavily promoted it over the last five years.

“We have undergrads who can compete and win nationally,” said Francis DuVinage, deputy director of honors and fellowships. “It’s a boost to their career in science and it reflects well on the University.”

GW has had Goldwater Scholarship winners in “each of the past few years,” Heller said.

“Having students of the caliber of Goldwater recipients and nominees creates an academic atmosphere that will continue to develop student researchers,” Heller added.

Congress established the Goldwater Foundation in 1986 to honor Sen. Barry M. Goldwater and encourage students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

Both Karve and Mittelberger have achieved major accolades in their fields. As a high school student, Karve attended a research program at the University of Chicago where she co-authored a work published in the American College of Cardiology and another in the American Society of Lasers in Surgery and Medicine.

As a research assistant with GW professor Akbar Montaser, Mittelberger was the primary author of a poster depicting the effects of different chemicals on high temperature plasma. He presented this poster at the 31st annual meeting of the Federation of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy Societies.

Mittelberger said, “It really changed me and made me a scientist.”

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