Two CAS students receive national Goldwater Awards

Washington State University.

Julia Jitkov and Clara Ehinger are two of the latest WSU recipients of national Barry Goldwater distinguished scholarships.

“These future scientists will receive significant financial support for the next academic year, which recognizes their outstanding accomplishments in research,” said April Seehafer, director of the WSU Distinguished Scholarships Program.

Since 1986, Goldwater awards have been available to students intending to pursue a research career in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering. WSU’s newest recipients bring the number of WSU students who have received Goldwater’s to 53. They are among 438 new awardees nationally this year, selected from 1,353 students nominated by 446 institutions.

Every Goldwater awardee has interesting goals and is taking significant steps toward reaching them, said Mary Sánchez Lanier, assistant vice provost. She is WSU’s representative to the national Goldwater organization.

Julia Jitkov

Goldwater recipient Jitkov, a junior from Pullman, is a physics and applied mathematics major and Honors College member. She plans to earn a master’s and PhD degree in astrophysics. Her goal is to eventually teach and lead researchers studying ways to enhance scientific understanding of the universe using light, particle, and wave observations.

She said she appreciates receiving a Goldwater award to support her studies, and she will do her best to contribute meaningful insights to the academic community.

Her faculty mentor is Vivienne Baldassare. Jitkov is currently working with Baldassare to identify supermassive black holes that are found in nuclear star clusters at the center of dwarf galaxies.

“Mapping the population of black holes in the universe can help astronomers understand processes involved in their formation and evolution of galaxies,” she said.

President of the WSU Physics and Astronomy Club, Jitkov’s experience also includes a summer 2023 Research Internship for Science and Engineering (RISE) award from DAAD at the Technische Universität Dortmund in Germany, and a research assistantship at the Institute for Shock Physics at WSU Pullman.

She chose to attend WSU because of its rigorous academics, opportunities for research, meaningful interactions with faculty, and great community of students.

Clara Ehinger

Ehinger, a junior from Yelm, Washington is a chemical engineering major, minoring in mathematics and a member of the Honors College. She plans to get a PhD and research catalysts for sustainable energy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she chose to attend WSU because of the opportunities available to conduct research as an undergraduate and to also study abroad. She had never set foot on campus until part-way through her freshman year.

She has worked in three laboratories at WSU—first with Von Walden in the Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, next with Su Ha in the O.H. Reaugh Laboratory for Oil and Gas Research, and currently, with Yong Wang’s group, which is focused on testing catalysts for the production of biofuel.

“This will be done by using single atom catalysts doped onto metal oxides such as ceria. By using single atoms, we are trying to maximize the efficiency of catalyst per unit of mass of catalyst used. By developing better methods for producing biofuels, industries that are reliant on liquid fuel sources, such as aerospace, can use less carbon intensive fuels than traditional petrochemicals as a step towards carbon neutrality,” Ehinger said. “I am honored to have been selected. The recognition that my interest in pursuing a career in catalysis research aligns with my ability to be a successful researcher, at least in the eyes of Goldwater, is appreciated and valued.”

By Beverly Makhani for WSU Insider