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Juniors Anna Braun and Casey Garner Among 2018 Goldwater Scholars

Thursday, April 12, 2018
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Anna Braun and Casey Garner are the latest Rose-Hulman students to be recognized by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation for their undergraduate academic achievements in math, the natural sciences or engineering.

Undergraduate research opportunities in material science, chemistry and mathematical problem solving have helped juniors Anna Braun and Casey Garner to be recognized as Goldwater Scholars, one of the most prestigious honors for undergraduate students majoring in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.

Braun and Garner were among 211 Goldwater Scholars selected from 1,280 candidates nationwide based upon academic merit. Each Scholar will receive $7,500 from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation to support their continued studies in their chosen academic field.

Seven Rose-Hulman students in the past four years and 11 over the past nine years have been named a Goldwater Scholar or honorable mention designee. Several of these alumni Goldwater Scholars have gone on to earn doctorate and medical degrees, and become physicians, researchers, scientists and product development professionals.

“The fact that Rose-Hulman consistently has students recognized as Goldwater Scholars and honorable mentions provides validation at the national level that our students rank among the top students in the country,” said Rose-Hulman’s Goldwater Scholar campus representative Bill Weiner, director of strategic initiatives and associate professor of biology and biomedical engineering.

Weiner points out that a majority of Rose-Hulman’s best students, particularly those in engineering programs, aren’t eligible for the Goldwater Scholar award because they do not intend to pursue a doctoral degree.

Braun is a chemical engineering and chemistry double major from Union, Ky., with a near-perfect 3.98 grade-point average. She is also a leader in Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and American Institute of Chemical Engineers student chapter, plays trombone in several student musical performance groups, and is a member of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, Blue Key national honor society and chemical professional fraternity, Alpha Chi Sigma.

For the past two years Braun has worked with chemistry and biochemistry professor Rebecca DeVasher to examine the material science behind the degradation of perovskite photovoltaic cells to make them more cost effective and have a longer productive lifespan. She also has conducted research into solar cell development during an internship at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., and is planning to return there again this summer.

Braun is president of Rose-Hulman’s Engineers for a Sustainable World student group. “Being committed to the future of our planet is a worthy goal. We’re harming the environment in so many ways. There’s always going to be a direct benefit of clean, renewable energy,” she says.

Listening to Braun discuss her passions with renewable energy, Garner turned to his fellow classmate and stated, “Wow, that’s really cool and interesting.”

He’s also had a fascinating career as a Rose-Hulman student, maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA as a mathematics and computational science double major. The Carlisle, Ind., native is working with mathematics professor Allen Holder to develop a new mathematical model that’s an extension of Data Envelopment Analysis, a useful tool in applied mathematics. He presented their research at Rose-Hulman’s Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Symposium last fall and is planning to make another presentation on the topic at the institute’s Undergraduate Mathematics Conference later this month. Garner is planning to explore applied mathematics this summer during a National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates project at Cornell University.

Garner’s inquisitive nature was pointed out by mathematics professor Dave Goulet, who asked students in a Systems Biology course a question that he later realized had a faulty premise and therefore was unanswerable. Goulet informed his students to ignore the problem. A few days later, Garner submitted a solution to the problem anyway, after finding a way to modify the problem.

“His work was very clever and his fix was not obvious to me at first,” Goulet explains. “It was clear that Casey had spent a considerable amount of time analyzing possibilities until he discovered a resolution. He is tenacious and creative. He doesn’t simply solve problems, he analyzes them deeply to understand their essence.”

For his part, Garner says, “My goal from my first day at Rose-Hulman has been to do my best and see where it takes me. It has been a great journey so far.”

Outside the classroom, Garner is a reserve second baseman on the varsity baseball team, the team’s representative to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and a member of the InterVarsity Christian fellowship student organization and Tau Beta Pi. Christian faith is a guiding force in his life, Garner says.

A total of seven Indiana college students were selected Goldwater Scholars this year. Outside of Indiana, colleges with multiple Goldwater Scholars were Harvard University (3), Stanford University (3), Johns Hopkins University (3), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2), University of Chicago (2), Duke University (2) and Columbia University (2).