Two Pomona College juniors have received this year’s Goldwater Scholarship, one of the most prestigious undergraduate awards in the fields of natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.
Hannah Caris ’23 and Jonathan Elisabeth ’23 are among the “highly qualified undergraduates who are … going on to become this country’s leading scientists, engineers, and mathematicians,” according to the Goldwater Foundation, a federally endowed agency established by Congress in 1986.
The scholarship supports college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers, with most recipients intending to obtain a Ph.D.
“The Goldwater Foundation is helping ensure that the U.S. is producing the number of highly qualified professionals the nation needs in critical STEM fields,” says Professor of Chemistry Malkiat Johal, who served as Pomona’s campus representative for the scholarship. “Both Hannah and Jonathan have demonstrated exceptional productivity and commitment to scientific research–congratulations to them both for winning this prestigious scholarship.”
Hannah Caris ’23
Caris, a neuroscience major and math minor, arrived at Pomona with a passion for neuroscience already. While on her Orientation Adventure trip before classes started, a student leader of the trip mentioned to her that Neuroscience Professor Jonathan King might be looking to add students to his lab. Caris began working in King’s lab during her first semester on campus, using electrophysiology to study the effects of a fungicide on neurotransmission in rats. Caris subsequently took Introduction to Neuroscience, co-taught by King, who also serves as her academic advisor, and Neuroscience Professor Elizabeth Glater.
Currently, Caris does research in Glater’s lab on the neuroimmune mechanisms of the learned avoidance behavior of nonlethal pathogenic bacteria in C. elegans.
“I was very impressed with how quickly she independently found relevant scientific articles and synthesized information about an entirely new field,” says Glater. “She was extremely enthusiastic about conducting experiments in the lab this year, and seeing her progress is very gratifying.”
Caris’ plan after Pomona is to pursue an M.D.-Ph.D. in neuroimmunology. Her ultimate goal is to conduct neuroimmunology research at a research hospital with a goal of developing novel interventions for neurodevelopmental disorders.
Reflecting on her journey so far, Caris says, “I couldn’t have done this without all the strong research mentors and their enthusiasm for teaching me, letting me explore things, taking the time to mentor me and giving me opportunities to realize that research really is my dream career.”
Jonathan Elisabeth ’23
Elisabeth, a double major in chemistry and physics, likewise, points to faculty members for his achievements. Elisabeth came to Pomona from Miami via the Posse Foundation. Molecular Biology Professor Cristina Negritto served as his Posse faculty mentor, meeting with him and other Posse students weekly to help them transition to college and navigate courses. Professor of Chemistry Charles Taylor also provided Elisabeth with guidance regarding course selection and connected him to people and events.
In January 2020, Elisabeth joined Chemistry Professor Nicholas Ball’s lab and has worked there ever since. Last spring, he published his research with Ball, “The Emerging Applications of Sulfur(VI) Fluorides in Catalysis.”
Ball also serves as Elisabeth’s faculty advisor. Elisabeth says of Ball, “Every step of the journey he’s been there for me,” adding that even before he came to campus, Ball helped him get oriented to Pomona and served as a liaison to the chemistry department for him.
“Through his time here at Pomona Jonathan has been an incredible asset to our department and our research group,” says Ball. “He has rightfully earned this honor, and our lab and department are excited about his future.”
Elisabeth’s career goal is to conduct academic research at the intersection of chemistry and physics, oriented towards materials that have an application in human health. “I have been fascinated with understanding the properties and behaviors of materials in the human body based on fundamental principles,” he says.