Tanner Byer ’17, Ziv Epstein ’17 and Nathan Sandford ’17 have each been awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which provides up to $7,500 per year for educational expenses to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering. Nina Warner ’17 received an honorable mention.
The Goldwater Foundation looks for intellectually curious students who have potential to make significant future contributions to their respective fields. Out of 1,150 mathematics, engineering and science majors who were nominated, 252 scholarships were awarded.
Tanner Byer, a molecular biology major from Portland, Oregon, plans to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry and is “eager to gain exposure to cutting-edge research and laboratory techniques and to foster the problem-solving skills necessary to tackle tough biological questions,” he says. Byers is interested in pursuing a career collaborating with scientists to construct models and mechanisms to explain biological phenomena that remain unexplained. Byers, who calls himself a natural problem-solver, also wants to work outside the lab as a consultant to biotechnology companies.
In the summer of 2014, Byer participated in a National Science Foundation undergraduate research program at Tufts University in the Mirkin Laboratory, which is aimed at constructing a detailed mechanism by which to explain microsatellite DNA expansion and contractions within the human genome. The following summer, Byer participated in a research program at University of Wisconsin, Madison, investigating the highly repetitive C-terminal domain (CTD) of RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) in order to better explain the mechanistic events that culminate in the expression of specific genes.
Currently, Byer is participating in Pomona College Chemistry Professor Jane Liu’s laboratory, studying the regulation of gene networks in known pathogens such as V. cholerae.
Ziv Epstein, a mathematics and computer science double major and media studies minor from Boulder, Colorado, plans to earn a graduate degree at the intersection of computational and social sciences. His goal is to — in either the private sector or academia — apply quantitative and algorithmic methods to answer questions of human behavior and society.
“I’ve always been interested in human behavior and morality, but have always been quantitatively oriented. It frustrated me how the psychology research I was excited about did not align with the math and computer science I was learning in school,” says Epstein.
With Yale Psychology Professor David G. Rand, Epstein worked on modeling human cooperation with quantitative methods, combining social science and behavioral economics. Together they wrote a paper, “Risking Your Life Without a Second Thought: Intuitive Decision-Making and Extreme Altruism,” which was listed as one of the Top 10 Insights from the Science of a Meaningful Life in 2014 by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. Their most recent paper looks at using machine learning to develop intuitive theories for human cooperation. Epstein has also worked on the Electome project with MIT Professor Deb Roy at the Media Lab, which seeks to map and analyze the 2016 presidential election using Twitter and online journalism datasets.
Nathan Sandford, from Santa Clara, California, is a physics major on the astronomy track. His goal is to earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics and conduct research and teach. Sandford is particularly interested in the subfields of galactic and stellar evolution because they require the close collaboration of computational models and observational data. He wants to give students the kind of opportunities to learn and explore astrophysical research that he was given by his professors and research advisors. Sandford cites classes he’s taken with Pomona College Physics and Astronomy Professor Philip Choi among those opportunities and inspirations. Choi’s Stellar Structure and Evolution course allowed Sandford to work with MESA, a research grade stellar evolution code to explore how helium composition effects the evolution of stars.
“Poring over and analyzing the large amounts of data output from the MESA code provided me my first real taste of what research in astronomy involved,” says Sandford.
Currently, Sandford is writing up results of last summer’s research at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, where he worked with and expanded on an existing evolution simulation and compared the output with observational data to try to better understand the galactic feedback processes at play. Additionally, every week he is at the College’s Table Mountain Observatory as part of a collaborative Pomona/Jet Propulsion Laboratory near-Earth asteroid search campaign. Next summer he will be conducting research looking for indirect detections of dark matter in the Milky Way’s central bulge and dark matter-dominated satellite galaxies.
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate.