Double physics and computer science major Madeline Galbraith has become the seventh Duquesne University student in five years to win a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. She is among just 103 women nationwide awarded the scholarship nationally this year and just 14 students majoring in computer science.
“I was absolutely thrilled to be recognized as a Goldwater scholar—it is the highest honor I could receive as an undergraduate studying in the STEM fields,” said Galbraith, a junior who is a member of Duquesne’s Honors College. “And having the Goldwater scholarship highlights my abilities to do research.”
Awarded by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, just 240 scholarships were bestowed for the 2017-2018 academic year. The distinguished scholars, who are selected based on academic merit, are undergraduate sophomores and juniors from the United States who study the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering fields.
Galbraith said she has always loved science, math and physics. “I kind of fell into the computational aspect during my freshman year at Duquesne when I took an entry-level computer science course,” said Galbraith, who ended up switching from chemistry to computer science as her second major. “I fell in love with it, and then I joined a computational chemistry lab under (the late) Dr. Jeffry Madura, whose focus was on biophysics and protein folding—that’s how I got into it.”
After finishing graduate school and eventually earning her Ph.D., Galbraith wants to study computational biophysics and research the effect of water on protein folding. “Cancer and Huntington’s Disease are among the many diseases caused by protein mis-folding,” explained Galbraith. “Water is one of the biggest contributors to proteins folding and mis-folding. By understanding how water interacts with protein, you can understand how proteins fold and why they do it in a specific manner—I want to continue working on that and identify if there are specific patterns in mis-folded proteins that we can use to fix it.”
“Having Duquesne physics majors among the same ranks as students from leading science institutions such as Stanford University means—to us—public acknowledgement of quality that is both honoring and deeply humbling at the same time,” said Dr. Simonetta Frittelli, chair and associate professor of physics. “Madeline is our second Goldwater in three years. For a program of our size (approximately 60 students), this is just remarkable.”
Galbraith’s $7,500, one-year scholarship can be used toward tuition, fees, books or room and board.
“To know that our undergraduate students can compete on a national stage like the Goldwater Scholarship competition and be successful is testimony, first and foremost, to the determination, hard work and dedication to learning that our students exhibit,” said Dr. Philip Reeder, dean of Duquesne’s Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences. “It’s also a testimony to the time and energy that our faculty contribute to mentoring, counseling and educating these students.”
The Goldwater Foundation established its scholarship program to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, and to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.