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Five students have been named 2020–2021 Goldwater Scholars, ranking the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, first in the country for the prestigious award.

The Goldwater Scholarship Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor US Senator Barry M. Goldwater. The most prestigious undergraduate STEM scholarships in the United States, Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering. The scholarships provide up to $7,500 annually to cover tuition, fees, books, and room and board. An estimated pool of more than 5,000 sophomores and juniors nationwide applied this year for the Goldwater.

“To lead the country in Goldwater Scholars is a tremendous achievement, a reflection of our nationally competitive undergraduates, and of course a credit to these five outstanding future STEM research leaders,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor David Manderscheid, who is also a professor of mathematics. “These results also underscore our robust undergraduate research infrastructure and the high quality of faculty mentoring our undergraduates receive.”

Several thousand sophomores and juniors nationwide seek their institution’s nomination to the Goldwater national competition. UT can nominate up to five undergraduates. This year 396 Goldwater Scholars were named from the 1,343 students nationwide nominated by 461 colleges and universities.

“The Goldwater competition is rigorous and unfolds over several months, which gives our staff a chance to get to know the students, their goals, and what drives them. Their passion for discovery really rubs off,” said Andrew Seidler, director of UT’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships, which facilitates the campus nomination process. “Seeing their potential recognized in this way is so satisfying—personally and professionally. It’s exciting to imagine what lies ahead for them”

This year’s recipients are:

Samantha Maness
Samantha Maness

Samantha Maness, a junior from Kingsport, Tennessee, studying materials science and engineering

Maness plans to pursue a PhD in materials science and engineering, conducting research in additive manufacturing technology and composite materials synthesis. She has already contributed to an invention disclosure submitted to the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, the UT entity responsible for securing and managing intellectual property. She wants to teach at the university level one day.

“Receiving the Goldwater Scholarship is an incredible feeling of recognition for my efforts in both the classroom and in research. It really drives home to me the fact that the work I’m involved in matters outside of my immediate academic sphere,” said Maness.

Maness described the Goldwater application process as a great experience, saying that it “not only bolstered my future ability to advocate for myself to graduate schools, but it also gave me confidence that I will be a genuinely competitive candidate for these programs.”

Clare Remy
Clare Remy

Clare Remy, a junior from Tucson, Arizona, studying honors anthropology with a minor in biology

Remy is co-president of the Undergraduate Association of Forensic Sciences, an interdisciplinary club that organizes professional development seminars with forensics practitioners to help upcoming generations of forensic scientists. She also serves as the vice president of the VEX U Competitive Robotics club, designing STEM workshops and mentoring programs for students throughout Knox County.

At UT, Remy has worked on a project to develop a differential diagnosis of cystic fibrosis in human skeletal remains and is currently working on a senior thesis researching Koch Cemetery, a historical archaeological site in St. Louis, Missouri. Remy plans to pursue a PhD focused on research in bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology.

“The application process for the Goldwater Scholarship has given me the ability to explore my interests in a constructive way, allowing me to put my passions and ambitions into words,” Remy said. “I am extremely grateful to have been chosen as a 2020 Goldwater Scholar and I would never have been able to achieve this honor without the unending support of my mentors who inspire me to work my hardest every day.”

Kristopher Reynolds
Kristopher Reynolds

Kristopher Reynolds, a junior from Coalfield, Tennessee, studying chemistry and biology

Reynolds is a Marine Corps veteran and currently serves as the president of UT’s SALUTE chapter, a national veterans honor society working to serve student veterans. The organization helps connect students with resources about education and career planning. At UT, he is conducting research regarding molecular electronics and integrated circuits and spent the prior two summers conducting research at Harvard.

“I am tremendously honored to have been selected as a Goldwater Scholar and join a community of talented scientists and leaders in shaping the way we conduct research to become more inclusive and tackle the scientific challenges that the world faces and will face in the near future,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds plans to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry, studying the charge and mass transport phenomena between material interfaces. Reynolds ultimately wants to lead a research group at a university or national laboratory.

“We must always remember that science knows no ethnicity or gender; it knows only curiosity and truth, and as long as we confront nature with an open mind, she will humble us every day,” Reynolds said.

Robert Jackson Spurling
Robert Jackson Spurling

Robert Jackson Spurling, a junior from Norris, Tennessee, studying materials science and engineering

Spurling is involved with the Microscopy Society of America Student Council, serving as regional liaison for the southeastern US. His research focuses on advanced characterization of materials, using tools like electron microscopy to understand how materials change as a result of testing under conditions such as high temperature or high stress. He has conducted research at UT; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and Iowa State University, through the Department of Energy’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program.

Spurling plans to pursue a PhD in materials science and engineering and conduct research in advanced materials for energy sustainability at a national laboratory or university.

“I am honored by the recognition of the Goldwater Scholarship, but none of this would have been possible without my mentors,” Spurling said. “They have challenged me both in the laboratory and the classroom and made me a better student and researcher.”

Logan White
Logan White

Logan White, a junior from Lebanon, Tennessee, studying materials science and engineering

White is involved in the Materials Research Society as well as the Materials Advantage club. He is currently working on a project through the US Department of Defense’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative to study a laser powder bed fusion additive manufacturing technique using the titanium alloy Ti-6Al-4V. As an undergraduate he has contributed to experiments at Oak Ridge and Argonne National Laboratories.

White plans to pursue a PhD in materials science and engineering. He wants to start a research career in the field of synchrotron and neutron diffraction in either an academic or national lab setting.

“I was very excited to be named a Goldwater Scholar. While I have put a lot of work in as a student and a researcher, I was excited because it was proof to the department that the effort and resources that they put into undergraduate opportunities are paying off,” White said. “Without the support of the department and my mentor, Dr. Hahn Choo, this would not have been possible.”

Three of UT’s Goldwater Scholars came from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, ranking that single department among the top university performers in the 2020 competition.

At UT, the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships facilitates the application process and works with its UT Goldwater Selection Committee to choose the final nominees. This year’s committee members were Albrecht von Arnim, professor and associate head of the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology; Kevin Kit, associate professor of materials science and engineering; Phil Myer, assistant professor in the UT Institute of Agriculture; and Remus Nicoara, professor of mathematics and director of math honors and undergraduate research.

UT students who would like more information about the Goldwater Scholarship and other nationally competitive awards can visit the ONSF website and set up an appointment to meet with ONSF staff.


Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,

Andrew Seidler, UT Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships (

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