Four Texas A&M Undergraduates Nominated for the 2023 Goldwater Scholarship

LAUNCH: National Fellowships congratulates Chris Barron ‘24, Heather Chang ‘24, Jakob Nielsen ‘24, and Christian Pryor ‘24 for their selection as Texas A&M nominees for the 2023 Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation competition. 

Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to exceptional sophomore or junior undergraduates who intend to pursue research careers in mathematics, natural sciences, or engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

The Goldwater Foundation gave its first award in 1989 and has awarded more than $40 million in scholarships. Hundreds of scholarships are awarded each academic year to students who have impressive academic qualifications and merit, with the average awardee having a 3.9 GPA. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Chris Barron ‘24

Chris smiling at the camera.

Chris Barron ‘24 is a double major in plant and environmental soil science and biochemistry, with two minors in genetics and statistics, and is from Sidell, Louisiana. Chris’ research focuses on drought-tolerant aspects of cottonseed varieties and different types of bulking methods for greenhouse seeds. For his projects, he worked in a cotton cytogenetics research lab under the mentorship of Dr. David Stelly from the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. If he were to receive the Goldwater Scholarship, it would allow Chris to pursue his goal of improving crop development in impoverished and food-insecure areas. Chris plans to earn a PhD and envisions a career in industry and academia. Chris’ first research publication: “Working from the ground up: Prosperity for farmers in Soroti District starts in the soil” took third place in the Metcalf Journalism competition. His article discusses how the soil of a district in Uganda impacts agriculture, and how soil conservation techniques could improve food production for the country. He has been awarded the Gathright Dean’s Excellence award and the Soil and Crop Science Outstanding Junior Award, and is a University Honors student through LAUNCH with the Honors Housing Community.

Heather Chang ‘24

Heather smiling at the camera.

Heather Chang ‘24 is an electrical engineering major from Lisle, Illinois. Heather’s research focuses on studying electrical grids and how they can be improved as countries, such as the United States, are transitioning to greener energy sources that will increase the load flux on these grids. She works in Dr. Thomas Overbye’s lab in the department of Electrical Engineering, where she studies how the need for electricity will change over the next decade due to changes in transmission, generation, and distribution. Heather has also done research through the National Renewable Energy lab during the summer of her freshman and the fall 2022 semester, where she worked with different groups on grid-forming inverter research. If Heather were to receive the Goldwater Scholarship, it would allow her to continue her work in research labs. Heather plans to earn a Ph.D. and plans a career in research. Heather has published her research in Dr. Overbye’s lab “The Economic and Technical Impacts of Houston’s Electric Vehicles on the Texas Transmission System: A Case Study” where she helped model how an increase in electric vehicles would affect an electrical grid in the greater Houston area. Outside of her research, Heather serves as an ambassador for Texas A&M’s Electrical and Computer Engineering program, where she encourages K-12 students to pursue engineering as a career.

Jakob Nielsen ‘24

Jakob wearing a pair of safety goggles and looking off camera with his hand under his chin.

Jakob Nielsen ‘24 is a materials science and engineering major from Plano, Texas. Jakob’s research focuses on how electricity can be used in the deposition of metals (a manufacturing method that layers metal onto another material like ceramics, plastics, and other metals). Though initially working on research projects involving semi-permeable membranes as a freshman and sophomore, it was during his freshman summer internship at Ames National Laboratory that Jakob discovered his love for the field of electrodeposition and “the beautiful microstructures that can come from it.” Jakob currently works with Dr. Sarbajit Banerjee, who has appointments in both the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. If chosen to receive the Goldwater Scholarship, Jakob would be able to take on more internships and research positions. Jakob plans to earn a Ph.D. in materials science and pursue a research career. Jakob co-authored a paper published in ScienceDirect Textured ceramic membranes for desilting and deoiling of produced water in the Permian Basin” that discusses how a cement-based membrane module could remove silt and oil in the drinking water that comes from the Permian Basin. He also won the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Oral Presentation Award for his presentation at the meeting of the Texas Section of American Physical Society at Rice University in October 2022.

Christian Pryor ‘24

Christian looking at the camera and smiling.

Christian Pryor ‘24 is a marine sciences major with a minor in chemistry from Forney, Texas. Christian’s research primarily focuses on studying how aspects of marine life are affected by their environment. He works at the Phytoplankton Dynamics Lab at the Texas A&M Galveston campus, where he previously researched the physical toxicity of polyfluoroalkyl pollutants on phytoplankton on the Texas Coast. Currently, Christian is working on a novel click-chemistry technique that would fluorescently label amino acids, and once developed could be used to determine how marine microbial protein exchange changes with differing levels of environmental stress. Both of these projects were done under the mentorship of Dr. Antonietta Quigg from the Department of Marine Biology at Texas A&M Galveston. If he were to receive the Goldwater Scholarship, it would emphasize Christian’s strong commitment to a career as an oceanographic researcher. Christian plans to earn a Ph.D. in oceanography and become a professor committed to research and teaching. He was also named an Ernest F. Holling Scholar by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in April 2022, and he will be interning at NOAA in the summer of 2023 as a result of this honor.

To read more about how LAUNCH: National Fellowships helps prepare outstanding students to compete for nationally-competitive awards such as the Goldwater Scholarship with the generous support of the Association of Former Students, please visit

Learn more about how to become a University Honors student and/or join an Honors Housing Community through LAUNCH.