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Rebecca Santorella named Goldwater Scholar, 2 more receive honorable mentions

Rebecca Santorella, a national Goldwater Scholar in this year's competition. Photo by Matt Winkel.
Rebecca Santorella, a national Goldwater Scholar in this year’s competition. Photo by Gem Perkins, School of Science.

Junior mathematics major Rebecca Santorella has been named a 2016 Goldwater Scholar, a prestigious honor awarded by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Santorella was selected alongside six other students from New Jersey in this year’s national competition.

Additionally, chemistry majors Sara Martin and Tanya Townsend were selected for honorable mentions this year.

This is the third consecutive year in which women from TCNJ’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics have struck gold, so to speak—Syndi Barish (2014) and Alana Huszar (2015) received scholarships, as well.

Goldwater Scholars are chosen through a highly selective national competition that honors exceptional undergraduate students who plan to pursue graduate degrees in the STEM fields and careers in research. Students must develop stellar applications in preparation for the competition, and the acknowledgment of several TCNJ students speaks to the level of academic excellence and rigor on campus.

For Santorella, winning a Goldwater Scholarship is the high-water mark in her past year of challenging research, working alongside Gevertz, associate professor of mathematics and statistics.

“Dr. Gevertz knew that I was interested in her area of research, mathematical biology, and found a way for me to work on a joint research project with her and Dr. Michael Ochs, also in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics,” Santorella says. “We built a multi-scale model of tumor growth based on stochastic cellular signaling networks. It was this project that I used as the basis for my research proposal in my Goldwater application.”

Although Gevertz has been on sabbatical this past year, she knew from the beginning that Santorella’s motivation and vigorous intellect would serve as assets for her research.

“The project threw many curve balls our way, and Rebecca’s composure and thoughtful approach to dealing with these challenges has gone above and beyond anything I could ever expected from an undergraduate student working on a project on a part-time basis,” says Gevertz.

Santorella will continue her research with Gevertz next year, implementing some of the ideas she included in her Goldwater research proposal. Santorella also plans to pursue a PhD in applied mathematics after she graduates, potentially specializing in mathematical biology.

“Rebecca has already made substantial progress towards becoming an independent student of, and contributor to, the mathematical sciences, and I am confident she will have an immense amount of success when she does pursue an applied mathematics doctorate,” says Gevertz.

—Tom Kozlowski ’16