The Goldwater Foundation has announced that William & Mary student Christopher Travis ‘19 has been named a Goldwater Scholar. Ruth Ann Beaver ‘20 was also named an Honorable Mention.
The prestigious award, given annually to sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering, covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.
The scholarship was established by Congress in 1986 to honor the work of Senator Barry Goldwater, who served in the U.S. Senate from the ‘50s through the ‘80s, and was the Republican presidential candidate in 1964.
Travis, a double major in chemistry and Computational and Applied Mathematics and Statistics, is one of 211 students nationwide to receive a scholarship from a pool of 1,280 natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering students. An additional 281 nominees were named Honorable Mentions.
"I am very excited and honored to receive this award," Travis said. "It’s a great testament to the caliber of undergraduate research at William & Mary."
Since the fall of his freshman year, Travis has conducted research in the biochemistry lab of Douglas Young, associate professor of chemistry at W&M, where he studies bioconjugations via unnatural amino acids, which can be developed into targeted cancer therapies. Last year, another of Young’s students, Zachary Nimmo ’18, was awarded a Goldwater for similar research. Young was named a 2017 Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar by the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation.
“Chris is an outstanding student and well-deserving of this extremely prestigious award,” Young said. “Having him work in my research lab over the past three years has been a pleasure, and I look forward to following his impressive future career in the sciences.”
Following graduation, Travis would like to obtain a Ph.D. in chemical biology and plans to conduct research to develop novel chemical techniques to improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, including cancer.
“My goal is to establish a career conducting research in the field of chemical biology,” Travis wrote in his nomination paper. “I aim to develop chemical tools and techniques which can be applied to biological systems. Specifically, I hope to conduct research focused on the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases impacting the biological systems of humans.”
The research interest is personal for Travis. One summer in middle school, he grew increasingly sick and doctors from multiple fields were unable to diagnose him. Eventually, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, but finding an effective treatment was another hurdle. Doctors struggled to identify which areas of his gastrointestinal tract were being impacted by Crohn’s, and thus struggled to find an effective medication.
“Ever since this experience, I have been acutely aware of the difficulty of initially diagnosing and finding treatment for a disease,” Travis wrote. “When I came to William & Mary and learned of Dr. Young’s research to develop chemical labeling strategies with potential applications to cancer research, I was immediately reminded of my Crohn’s disease…From that moment, I recognized my desire to pursue a career in research, specifically in working to develop techniques that improve the ease of diagnosing patients with certain diseases, particularly autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s disease.”
Beaver is a physics major and plans obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. She hopes to one day design spacecraft and then transfer into teaching at the university or high school level. Her mentor is Tyler Meldrum, assistant professor of chemistry.
Each year, universities are allowed to nominate up to four students for the award. Since the award’s inception, W&M students have performed consistently well. Since 1989, when the scholarships were first awarded, William & Mary has had at least one Goldwater Scholar each year (with the exception of 2011).
“I am thrilled to see these exceptional students have been recognized by the Goldwater Foundation,” said Lindsey Love, W&M director of national scholarships. “William & Mary has an impressive track record with the Goldwater Scholarship and I’m excited to see that trend continue. These students are shining examples of what makes William & Mary a true research university.”