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USA Honors students cap off the year with prestigious awards

Photo+courtesy+of+Ben+Siu.
Photo courtesy of Ben Siu.

Photo courtesy of Ben Siu.

Photo courtesy of Ben Siu.

Sara Boone, Life Editor

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This year, students in USA’s honors program won more than 10 national awards.

The South Alabama honors program has steadily gained recognition over its lifespan with more national awards recipients each year. Michael Doran, former director of the honors program, constantly encouraged students to apply for them. He urged students to look into the national awards so that they could have a chance of winning them. These include the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship , the NOAA Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship, and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. His constant reminders to enter into these competitions  paid off.

The Goldwater is the most famous award among honors students. Accredited universities throughout the country choose only four students each year who apply for the award. This past year, Ben Siu, a senior chemical engineering student at USA, received a Goldwater for his research in ionic liquids with thermal stability.

“I got a huge confidence boost with myself when I got it. It has confirmed that I can actually fit in at graduate school,” said Siu.

An additional 307 students nationwide received honorable mentions for the Goldwater. Alex Coley and Phiwat Klomkaew, both honors students at USA, each earned one last year. Coley is a pre-med student who plans on pursuing a medical doctorate and Ph.D. in order to become an oncologist, and Klomkaew is an engineering major who also plans on receiving his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering.

USA students Madison Tuttle and Robert Faulk won the notable NSF Graduate Research Fellowship last year. The fellowship supports students who are in a STEM field and plan to pursue research-based master’s or doctoral degrees. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the NSF Fellowship has an impressive record among recipients. Forty-two fellows have gone on to become Nobel Prize recipients and more than 450 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tuttle graduated this past spring with her bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Her advice to hopeful fellowship recipients is to give maximum effort and to start working on the application early.

Faulk is pursuing dual master’s degrees in experimental psychology and sociology. The first time he applied for the fellowship, he received an honorable mention.

“I nailed it the second time, though,” Faulk said.

While the Goldwater and NSF Fellowship provide tuition and other financial assistance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship does much more. It includes a 10-week, full-time, paid internship with the NOAA. Caroline Kolakoski, a junior majoring in meteorology, earned one this year. This summer, she will visit NOAA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and next summer, she will pick any National Weather Service station to intern at as a part of her scholarship.

“Since NOAA is very difficult to get a job at, this presents me with many opportunities as a professional meteorologist. Living in a different part of the country next summer will help me extend my networking, as well,” Kolakoski said.  

With the addition of the honors college next year to the current honors program, there is no doubt that more students within the honors community will continue to win these awards and represent USA on a national level.

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The student news site of The University of South Alabama
USA Honors students cap off the year with prestigious awards