For the first time in more than a decade, a Bowling Green State University student has won the prestigious Barry Goldwater scholarship, the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in the fields of natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.
Quinn Eberhard, a junior in the Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences, with a major in chemistry and a minor in biology, said she will use the $7,500 scholarship to help fund her research and her Ph.D. ambitions.
Eberhard’s focus is the development of a research-centered algorithm, or set of rules. By using the algorithm, rather than collecting and manually analyzing data for each application, scientists can shorten their research time by weeks or even months. Her work is critically needed; she studies protein sequences and RNA research, potentially affecting research on cancer and the corona family of viruses – including coronavirus.
“Quinn’s work is just one more example of a public university working for the public good,” said BGSU President Rodney Rogers. “I’m proud of what she’s already achieved, and I look forward to the achievements I know her future holds.”
In 2019, Eberhard, who is from Dublin, used a Hoskins Global Scholars Program scholarship from the University to travel to Cambridge, England, where she worked with researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory - European Bioinformatics Institute.
She credited Morgan-Russell, Honors College dean, along with Neocles Leontis, Department of Chemistry, and Craig Zirbel, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, with helping her refine and develop her project, starting with her involvement in the university’s RNA Structural Bioinformatics group. During the pandemic, she has continued her research and has worked remotely with Leontis and Zirbel.
“Due to the pandemic, I won’t be traveling back to Cambridge to work with the EBI like we had originally planned,” Eberhard said, “but I am incredibly grateful for all of the help the Honors College gave me while applying for the Goldwater scholarship as well as all of my mentors in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biology.”
“Her experiences drive her to seek real-world applications for everything she learns in science classes and in her research work,” Leontis said. “She recognizes the value of bioinformatics and computational approaches to solving complex problems involving genetic conditions that occur in humans and is committed to work at the forefront of such challenges in her scientific work.”
Zirbel added, “Quinn is a superb choice for the Goldwater Foundation Scholarship because she is smart, fearless and highly motivated. She works hard toward her goals and is capable of setting her own direction, but she also takes suggestions very well. She also had a good proposal and the right environment in which to pursue it. She shows every sign of being on the trajectory toward becoming a successful research scientist, and of simply having the right nature to do so.”
The Goldwater scholarship recognizes the scientific talent needed nationwide to maintain global competitiveness and security. More than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors applied for this year’s scholarship; Eberhard is one of the 2020-21 winners. Since its founding in 1989, the scholarship has awarded more than $71 million to aspiring scientists. Honoring Senator Barry Goldwater, it was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.