Two College of Charleston biochemistry majors have been named 2019–20 Goldwater Scholars, one of the nation’s highest honors for undergraduates studying science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).

Rising seniors Dashiell Jay and Mason Huebsch were among the 496 students nationwide to receive one of this year’s Goldwater Scholarships, which cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to $7,500 per year. Aiming to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in STEM disciplines, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship recognizes college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming the next generation of research leaders in their fields.

“Strong undergraduate research is an essential component of a successful application for these awards, and both Dashiell and Mason have been involved in undergraduate research since their second semester, freshman year, and both are exceptionally strong students academically and in the research lab,” says Pamela Riggs-Gelasco, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Since 2012, seven Goldwater Scholarships have been awarded to chemistry or biochemistry majors from CofC, which is more than both Clemson University (with five chemists or biochemists) and University of South Carolina (with two) over that same time period, says Riggs-Gelasco.

In fact, the College has produced 12 Goldwater Scholars over all since 2013 – something that Anton Vander Zee, director of the College’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, says is very telling: “It is a strong indication that our faculty mentors not only eagerly encourage undergraduate participation in research, but that this participation, often resulting in publication, is an integral part of what they do at the College.”

Huebsch, for example, worked with chemistry professor Jennifer Fox to publish his paper on a protein with a newly identified function of “quality control” in the cell’s mitochondria.

RELATED: Read about Mason Huebsch’s research with Jennifer Fox as a 2017 recipient of the College’s Summer Undergraduate Research with Faculty (SURF) grant.

“This was all possible because of my mentor, Dr. Jennifer Fox. She has taught me so much about what it really means to be a researcher,” says Huebsch, who hopes to one day contribute to the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s and similar diseases through protein misfolding and aggregation research. “Being a recipient of the Goldwater scholarship will help me on my path to attend graduate school, earn a Ph.D in biochemistry and reach my career goal of conducting biochemical research. I’m so fortunate to have received this award.”

Jay, an Honors College student who is working on a manuscript with chemistry professor Michael Giuliano about how opioid peptides organize structurally in models of cell membranes, feels equally grateful.

“Receiving the Goldwater Scholarship means to me that my research pursuits at the College of Charleston are considered significant by an objective audience that is committed to national scientific progress and competitiveness,” says Jay, who ultimately hopes to conduct research in a university setting on the structure and function of the components of addiction-related diseases. “The honor of being selected among so many qualified applicants gives me greater conviction that my contributions to global scientific knowledge will be meaningful, and I hope that this award will afford me greater ease in establishing myself professionally, as well.”

Featured image: Biochemistry majors Dashiell Jay (left) and Mason Huebsch (right) have each received a Goldwater Scholarship.