CBS Students Receive Prestigious Goldwater Scholarships

From left, Avantika Gokulnatha, a third-year genetics and genomics major, Madeleine Rose a second-year cognitive science major, and Shih-Na Liu a third-year evolution, ecology and biodiversity major all conduct research as undergraduates at UC Davis. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)
From left, Avantika Gokulnatha, a third-year genetics and genomics major, Madeleine Rose a second-year cognitive science major, and Shih-Na Liu a third-year evolution, ecology and biodiversity major all conduct research as undergraduates at UC Davis. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

CBS Students Receive Prestigious Goldwater Scholarships

Three UC Davis students were awarded the scholarships this year, two from CBS

Three UC Davis students, including two from the College of Biological Sciences, have won the highly prestigious and competitive Barry Goldwater Scholarship. 

Every year, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation honors fewer than 500 undergraduate second- and third-year students from across the country with scholarships recognizing their science, technology, engineering and mathematics research accomplishments and future potential.

The 2024 UC Davis Goldwater Scholars are: Avantika Gokulnatha, a third-year genetics and genomics major, Madeleine Rose, a second-year cognitive science major, and Shih-Na Liu, an evolution, ecology and biodiversity major. Each of them submitted research spanning multiple STEM fields and topics.

Gokulnatha, who is from San Jose, California, investigates the cellular mechanisms of the human aging process. Rose, who is from Foster City, California, conducts research at the intersection of neuroendocrinology, chronic pain and artificial intelligence. And Liu, from Taoyuan, Taiwan, explores the effects of diet on the body shape evolution of reef fishes.

All three winners intend to continue their research at a graduate level. In the meantime, they’ll work on their ongoing endeavors here at UC Davis, where they began their journeys pursuing research excellence.

Goldwater dynasty

UC Davis has had 35 recipients earn the Goldwater Scholarship throughout the program’s 30-year history. This is the seventh consecutive year that one or more UC Davis students received the coveted Goldwater Scholar title. Only one other UC had more awardees than UC Davis for the 2024-25 scholarship cycle.

Scott Palmer, UC Davis prestigious scholarship advisor, said this number speaks not just to the caliber of students that UC Davis admits but also to the multitude of research opportunities available for undergraduates to pursue.

“At Davis, there are so many ways to get involved with research and the labs conducting it,” Palmer said. “We have a reputation for being collaborative, which not a lot of incoming students are necessarily aware about.” 

From seminar to scholar

Gokulatha headshot
Avantika Gokulnatha

Gokulnatha first learned about the scholarship at one of Palmer’s honors program advising seminars during her first quarter at UC Davis.

“In the past, I benefitted significantly from applying to scholarships — not just financially, but also through the doors that these awards open,” Gokulnatha said. “I knew I would need to start exploring research opportunities and immediately the one thing I grasped was that everyone seemed accessible and really invested in us undergraduates learning everything we can both inside and outside the classroom. People really do see themselves in you as a budding researcher.”

Bold actions, rich returns

Madeleine Rose headshot
Madeleine Rose

Rose began her Goldwater journey cold emailing professors, looking for opportunities that best fit her personal research goals.

“The worst response you can get is a no and a no is not the end of the world. You never know what will happen if you do not hit send,” Rose said. “Reaching out to prospective mentors across disciplines is a great way to expand your options and diversify research interests, it’s how I now work with top researchers and clinicians across academic institutions.” 

Opportunities to rethink the way things work

Shih-Na Liu headshot
Shih-Na Liu

Liu noted there are also many ways to get your research funded.

“Last year, I participated in the EVE Scholars Program. Through the Department of Evolution and Ecology, I was able to make a lot of progress on my research that I then submitted for the Goldwater Scholarship,” she said. “It is a really cool program because they fund you for the whole summer, then you take a research presentation class the following quarter and they even provide you with funding to go to conferences to learn more. It’s the whole research package.”

Gaining invaluable experience

According to Palmer, applying to a prestigious scholarship application, alone, is a huge win for most undergraduate students. “You get the opportunity to write about yourself, clarify your vision and show others why they should invest in you. This is a great skill to practice going into graduate school or for jobs after college,” he said.

Rose put herself through this experience to do exactly that: gain valuable experience to aid her future research endeavors.

“You miss 100% of the shots you do not take. The odds of receiving an award like this are slim and I was aware of this when I first decided to apply,” she said. “The application process was challenging but encouraged me to think critically about the research projects I am leading. Applying for this scholarship strengthened my skills both as a researcher and writer.”

Media Resources

  • To learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship and how to apply, visit the Barry M. Goldwater webpage located on the UC Davis Financial Aid and Scholarships webpage. 
  • Isabella Beristain is a communications specialist in UC Davis Enrollment Management.

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