Sterling Evans wasn’t sure he had a future in science when he arrived at the University of Missouri, thinking perhaps he’d follow in his father’s footsteps toward a business degree. Julie Nguyen’s family and friends presumed English was her calling, maybe at Yale or Rice.
But Evans (Lathrop, Missouri) and Nguyen (Chesterfield, Missouri) — 2019 recipients of the Goldwater Scholarship — credit Mizzou’s breadth of opportunity for helping them forge their own academic path.
“I started doing research with bacteria that promote growth in plants my freshman year in [Curators’ Professor of Plant Sciences] Gary Stacey’s lab,” says Evans, at the time a participant in MU’s Freshman Research in Plant Sciences (FRIPS) Program. “I fell in love with it. My sophomore year I was working in genome editing with soybeans.”
Nguyen also caught the research bug — in Assistant Professor of Biomedical, Biological & Chemical Engineering Bret Ulery’s lab where she studied peptide amphiphile coatings and is currently studying hydrogels for biomedical applications. Nguyen is double majoring in music and chemical engineering.
“It’s not easy, and I’m taking five years to do it,” says Nguyen, who also plays the viola. “I don’t think I’d be double majoring anywhere else. There are smart people wherever you go, and Mizzou has the resources to help make it happen.”
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship in Excellence Foundation looks for recipients who display a commitment to research in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Not only do Evans and Nguyen enjoy scientific research, but they also enjoy communicating complex scientific ideas to people outside of the laboratory.
Nguyen interned at the Argonne National Laboratory and hopes to one day parlay a PhD into a communications career helping lawmakers make better-informed decisions. Evans served a summer internship at Michigan State University and sees a possible professorship in the crystal ball.
“I love talking about science and coming up with analogies to help people understand it,” Evans says. “There are a lot of different ways at Mizzou for me to figure out what I like to do, who I am and what I enjoy as a scientist.”