Two Goldwater Scholars

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March 26, 2014

Two MSU College of Engineering students pursuing STEM-related degrees have won the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

John Suddard-Bangsund and David Zoltowski have been awarded the national scholarship that was established by Congress in 1986 to create highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers who are interested in research careers.

John Suddard-Bangsund of materials science and David Zoltowski of electrical engineering will advance their research interests as Goldwater Scholars.

Suddard-Bangsund is an Honors College junior majoring in materials science and engineering and interdisciplinary humanities.

He is a research assistant in the Molecular Organic Excitonics Lab, developing new electron donor materials for organic photovoltaics. His work has been inspired by one of his favorite faculty members, Richard Lunt, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science.

Suddard-Bangsund plans to pursue a doctoral degree in materials science and engineering, conducting research on solar energy materials and teaching at the university level.

He is from Monticello, Minn., and graduated from Monticello High School in 2011.

“I'm honored to be recognized as a Goldwater Scholar but I couldn't have gotten to this point without the mentorship I've received,” Suddard-Bangsund said. “I've had the opportunity to work with people who are really excited and passionate about their work, and their energy has been contagious. I look forward to continuing my research and seeing where it takes me.”

Suddard-Bangsund is an Honors Times Two mentor and fundraising chair for Engineers Without Borders. Suddard-Bangsund is also a recipient of the MSU Alumni Distinguished Scholarship. He plans to pursue a doctoral degree in materials science and engineering, conducting research on solar energy materials and teaching at the university level.

He plans to graduate in May 2015.

Zoltowski is an Honors College junior majoring in electrical engineering, which seeks to advance knowledge on the brain and autism. He said Andrew Mason, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, was influential in getting his research interests started. Since August, Zoltowski has also worked closely with Selin Aviyente, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

As a research assistant, Zoltowski studies functional brain networks by applying advanced signal processing tools to their study. He plans to pursue a doctoral degree in electrical engineering, conducting research combining electrical engineering and neuroscience to advance the knowledge of the brain.

He is from West Lafayette, Ind., and graduated from West Lafayette High School in 2011.

“I am very excited to be a Goldwater Scholar,” Zoltowski said. “It feels great to be recognized for my hard work and I am motivated to live up to the standards of past Goldwater Scholars. The award is a testament to the quality of Michigan State University's College of Engineering, Honors College, and Student-Athlete Support Services."

He is captain of the MSU Varsity Swimming and Diving team, a Distinguished Big Ten Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten. Zoltowski is a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, Eta Kappa Nu and an Honors Times Two mentor.

Zoltowski is a recipient of the MSU Honors College National Scholarship, Walter R. Yates Memorial Scholarship and Arthur J. Harris Memorial Scholarship.

He plans to graduate in May 2015.

"We in the College of Engineering are very proud of David and John for their accomplishment in being chosen among so large a number of nominations for this distinction and award," said Leo Kempel, acting dean of the MSU College of Engineering. "David's research interest in helping understand how the human brain functions – leading at some point to therapies and even cures for neurological conditions such as autism – is in the best tradition of transformative research at Michigan State University. John's interest in improving the materials for capturing solar energy will directly lead to reduced energy dependency on non-renewable sources and lead to better environmental conditions."

They become the 35th and 36th Goldwater Scholars from Michigan State University since the scholarship program was established almost 30 years ago. More than 280 scholarships were awarded nationally this year.

Two MSU students also received honorable mentions: Megan Kechner, an Honors College sophomore majoring in neuroscience in the Lyman Briggs College and psychology in the College of Social Science; and Irene Li, an Honors College sophomore majoring in genomics and molecular genetics in the College of Natural Science and interdisciplinary studies in social science-health and society in the College of Social Science.

“David and John are bright students who have a good future ahead of them,” said Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, dean of the MSU Honors College. “We’re honored they have received this outstanding award and that it will help support their pursuit of careers related to scientific research.”