Two NC State juniors selected by Goldwater Foundation as 2018 Scholar, Honorable Mention

Madison Maloney was recently selected as North Carolina State University’s 51st Goldwater Scholar and Benjamen O’Hallaron was selected as NC State’s 2018 Goldwater Honorable Mention.

The prestigious Goldwater Scholarship is distributed by The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which was established by Congress in 1986. The award is described as the most distinguished undergraduate award of its kind, and it includes up to $7,500 annually in eligible education expenses for college sophomores and juniors currently studying the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering in the United States who have potential to conduct research and plan to pursue research careers in those same fields.

This year’s Goldwater Scholars were selected from an applicant pool of 1,280 students with U.S. citizenship or permanent residency; 211 students received the awards after a review based on academic merit and 281 more were named as Honorable Mentions. NC State and other four-year institutions are allowed to nominate or endorse up to four students each year. Junior Ziad Ali and sophomore Ryan Brandt were the other two outstanding students nominated this year.

Maloney, 21, a junior from Greenville, NC, is majoring in aerospace engineering and is the first woman from NC State to receive the Goldwater Scholarship since spring 2015. She came to NC State as a Park Scholar and a Coca-Cola Scholar, and she is part of the University Honors Program. Maloney was selected as a 2017 Astronaut Scholar and intends to earn a PhD in aeronautics and astronautics, with the goal of conducting research at either NASA or a national lab on the topic of human space exploration systems.

She has conducted research since summer 2016 under the mentorship of Dr. Scott Ferguson in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and counts graduate student Samantha White and Dr. Tyler Hudson at NASA Langley Research Center as project mentors.

Maloney is an Engineering Ambassador, serves as director of the Student Government Athletics Department and treasurer for the campus chapter of Sigma Gamma Tau, and is studying Russian to prepare for collaboration with Russian engineers in a space exploration career.

“Applying for the Goldwater helped me learn to tell my story,” said Maloney. “It required me to think deeply about the reasons I originally began to pursue a career in human space exploration and why I hope to use research as a vehicle of contribution to the field.”

O’Hallaron, 30, a junior from Raleigh, NC, is majoring in plant biology and minoring in ecology. He transferred to NC State from Wake Technical Community College in fall 2016 after earning an associate’s degree in horticulture from St. Louis Community College and serving as a horticultural intern at the highly regarded Missouri Botanical Garden (MGB). At NC State, O’Hallaron has received three merit scholarships and plans to earn a PhD in ecology and conduct field research at either a university or a botanical research institution with an emphasis on conservation of threatened ecosystems.

He has conducted research since fall 2016 under the mentorship of Dr. Qiuyun (Jenny) Xiang in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and also counts Dr. Bob Magill at the MGB Bryophyte Herbarium as a project mentor.

O’Hallaron studied and conducted fieldwork at Zhejiang University in summer 2017 as part of NC State’s botanical study abroad program to China. He volunteers as a tutor for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and has served as a Small Pack Leader for NC State’s Office of International Services.

“I am curious about how the universe works; my studies are focused on plant evolutionary ecology,” said O’Hallaron. “It’s impossible to know everything, but studying evolution and statistics gives me powerful tools to interpret the unknown.”

NC State students applied for campus nomination through the Fellowship Advising Office and were selected by the Goldwater Scholarship campus selection committee:
• Larry Blanton, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
• Lisa Bullard, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
• Kenan Gundogdu, Department of Physics
• Jim Knopp, Department of Molecular and Structural Biochemistry
• Sandy Paur, Department of Mathematics

Members of this campus selection committee volunteer to meet with all applicants, not just nominees, to provide feedback. Two members, Knopp and Paur, are retiring as faculty and as campus selection committee members this year.

“We are fortunate to have long and dedicated service from our Goldwater Scholarship campus selection committee members, including that of Drs. Knopp and Paur,” said Tiffany Kershner, adjunct teaching assistant professor of anthropology and director of the Fellowship Advising Office. “Madison and Ben’s diverse research experiences and goals were framed by their unique backgrounds and fed by their curiosity, determination, and talent. Madison speaks often of her inspiration from NC State alumna Christina Koch, and has likely already inspired other Eastern North Carolinians, women, and engineers to push research boundaries. Ben has demonstrated dedication to ecology research and has leveraged his perspective as a nontraditional student and his experience teaching English in Colombia to drive his passion for innovative scientific scholarship.”

Previous Goldwater Scholars and Honorable Mentions from NC State have included the institution’s first and second Churchill Scholarship recipients, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program grant recipients, Marshall Scholarships Finalists, and a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant recipient.


Click here for the Goldwater Foundation’s press release.

Photography credit: Alsace Gallop/Fellowship Advising Office

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The Fellowship Advising Office (FAO) helps NC State’s undergraduate students, graduate students, and alums learn of and apply for nationally competitive and prestigious awards. These awards fund a wide range of opportunities, and many are connected to undergraduate and graduate degree programs or internships, overseas opportunities, and independent projects.