Texas Tech University

Student-Athlete Wins Goldwater Scholarship for STEM Research

Heidi Toth

April 7, 2016

Hattie Schunk

Hattie Schunk is joined by three Texas Tech students who earned Honorable Mentions from the program, which was created to alleviate a shortage of qualified researchers.

Hattie Schunk
Hattie Schunk

A Texas Tech University student was one of 252 U.S. students selected for a Goldwater Scholarship, an award designed to encourage research careers in science, engineering and math.

Hattie Schunk, a junior from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was selected from thousands of applicants to become a Goldwater Scholar in 2016, a year after being one of about 260 students to receive an Honorable Mention for the same award. She is a chemical engineering major with plans to earn a doctorate in bioengineering and do research focused on improving medical procedures, diagnostic capabilities, target therapies and medical devices that will help improve quality of life. She also is a member of the Honors College, previously played soccer for Texas Tech and now competes with the track and field and cross country programs.

It's a lot to take on all at once, but Schunk said her experiences as an athlete hone her academic work. With 20 hours a week already dedicated to practice, competition, weight-training and physical therapy, she has had to develop self-discipline to ensure her studying gets done and she has time for her research, about which she is equally passionate.

Kennady Abbott
Kennady Abbott

“My undergraduate research experiences along with my desire to tackle the complex engineering challenges faced by society are what reinforced my decision to pursue a career where I can make a long-term impact, and the Goldwater Scholarship has been the perfect stepping stone,” she said.

Michael San Francisco, dean of the Honors College, said Schunk has distinguished herself through her research in nanomaterials from anti-cancer drug delivery to optical and electronic applications. In the summer of 2015 she interned at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque and now is telecommuting with the laboratory during the school year. She will return to Sandia this summer to work in the Advanced Materials Lab. She also worked in chemistry professor Dominick Casadonte's lab before going to Sandia.

“It is a tremendous honor for her to be selected as a Goldwater Scholar,” San Francisco said. “While at Sandia, Hattie made significant contributions that earned her co-authorship on a research article published by the Materials Research Society. She is a versatile and talented young lady with a bright future.”

Amanda Miller
Amanda Miller

All four Texas Tech students who applied were recognized. Max Zhelyeznyakov, Amanda Miller and Kennady Abbott were among the 256 applicants to receive an Honorable Mention.

  • Kennady Abbott is a biochemistry major who plans to attend medical school and earn a doctorate in immunology, then conduct research on translational initiatives for the development of new therapies and improved treatment options for immunological diseases.
  • Amanda Miller has a double major in biochemistry and psychology and is in the Honors College. She plans to go to medical school and earn a doctorate in biological chemistry prior to conducting research at the interface between nanotechnology and nanomedicine and teaching at a university. She also is a member of the Honors College at Texas Tech.
  • Max Zhelyeznyakov is a physics major who plans to earn a doctorate in applied physics and pursue research in optics while teaching at a university.
Max Zhelyeznyakov
Max Zhelyeznyakov

Texas Tech administrators have made the Goldwater and other national scholarships a priority, said John Opperman, Texas Tech interim president.

“Congratulations to Hattie on this wonderful achievement,” Opperman said. "Having students who earn prestigious national awards like the Goldwater Scholarship speaks to the high quality of education we're providing at Texas Tech, while the recognition of all our applicants is an even greater accomplishment. Opportunities like this give us a chance to display what our university and its students are truly capable of.”

Wendoli Flores, director of the Office of National and International Scholarships and Fellowships, worked with the students throughout the arduous process of applying. Because Texas Tech can only nominate four students for the Goldwater, applicants first apply internally through Flores' office. A selection committee made up of Flores and STEM faculty members reviewed the applications and conducted interviews to find the most qualified students.

From there students polished their applications and submitted them to the Goldwater Foundation. Flores had to submit a number of items as well. The process takes several months and requires significant communication between the applicants, recommenders and the selection committee to ensure all the paperwork is turned in.

“Attention to every detail on our end helped Hattie focus her efforts on her essays, which are a crucial part of the application,” Flores said.

Because of Texas Tech's focus on national and international scholarships, more students are seeing success in other areas as well. Senior Elizabeth Hash was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, the oldest international fellowship in the world. The Rhodes Trust provides full financial support for 32 American students to get a degree at Oxford University in Great Britain. Hash is graduating in May with bachelor's degrees in English, psychology, and environment and the humanities.