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Two Students Selected as Goldwater Scholars

Posted on 3 May 2013 | 11:03 am

College of Charleston students Erica Tracey and Brenna Norton-Baker were selected as 2013 Goldwater Scholars from a field of more than 1,100 applicants. Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D.

“Being awarded a Goldwater Scholarship is often the first in a string of prestigious recognitions,” the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation notes. “Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 118 Marshall Awards, 110 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships.”

Erica Tracey, a junior in the Honors College and a William Aiken Fellow, is majoring in biology with an interdisciplinary minor in neuroscience. Her current research, which emerges from her collaborative work with Dr. Chris Korey and Dr. Melissa Hughes, focuses on neuroplasticity in snapping shrimp, research that has broad implications for understanding of neural regeneration. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biological neuroscience.  Needless to say, Erica is thrilled with the scholarship offer. “A Goldwater Scholarship gives me a sense of pride, elation, and validation for the countless hours I, and those who have done so much to help me, invested in the process,” she says. “I owe a great thanks to the William Aiken Fellows Society and the staff of the Honors College for encouraging me to pursue research early in my college career and even more thanks to my supportive mentors, especially Dr. Korey, for all the guidance he provided.”

For Dr. Korey, Erica’s success reflects the collaborative and intensive research environment that students in the biology department and across the School of Sciences and Mathematics have the opportunity to experience. “We pride ourselves on the close interactions we have between individual faculty and the students in our labs,” Korey explains. “Our students are doing cutting-edge research in a truly independent way.  Students are expected to grow into independent researchers, present their work at national conferences, and, if possible, create enough quality work to warrant authorship on a peer-reviewed publication.  Erica has been able to accomplish all of these before her senior year. She is truly exceptional.”

Brenna Norton-Baker, a sophomore in the Honors College, is majoring in biochemistry, a field in which she also plans to pursue a Ph.D. Brenna joined an ongoing project led by Dr. Justin Wyatt on the development of novel chemotherapies for cancer treatment.  Dr. Wyatt sees Brenna as an emerging talent in her field. “I have been fortunate to have her as student in my Organic Chemistry course as a freshman where she rose to the top of her peers,” he says. “A year later she has become a Supplemental Instruction Leader for the same course, and has been a great influence and leader for this freshman class. As a member of my research group she has proven herself time and time again both intellectually and as team player. I cannot say enough about how exciting it is know her and continue to watch her grow as a person and as a scientist.”

This achievement means a great deal not only to Erica, Brenna, and their respective mentors and Departments, but to the College of Charleston community as well. Dr. Mike Auerbach, Dean of the School of Sciences and Mathematics, describes how “all of us in the School are thrilled to see Erica and Brenna selected to receive a Goldwater scholarship, the most prestigious award for undergraduates majoring in the sciences.  We stress the importance of our undergraduates engaging in research to gain full exposure to what it means to have a career in science.  Both Brenna and Erica have taken full advantage of undergraduate research opportunities. In addition, both students excel in the College’s Honors College.

For more information about Goldwater Scholars and other awards, visit the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards or contact the office’s director, Dr. Anton Vander Zee  at

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