Matthew Evans, A&S ’15, was recently awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships in the country given to an undergraduate student studying science and mathematics. The scholarship is named after Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater and is intended to encourage students to pursue graduate work and research in these areas.
The science department nominated Evans for the federally funded award. He then submitted his research proposal to Mary Roberts, the faculty coordinator for the award, who chooses two sophomores and two juniors for review by the national committee. To earn this scholarship, one must have participated in research, or have a definite plan for future research. This summer, Evans is traveling to Cambridge, England to study a different technique of neuron imaging that he hopes to use in his thesis.
“He was special because he showed a level of independence that I didn’t see in other candidates,” Roberts said. “If you get a Goldwater it basically says, ‘we think you’re pretty special.’ What Goldwater is often looking for is someone who is going to do something a little out of the ordinary. They want to support people who are going into science.”
Evans spends about 30 hours a week working in Laura Lowery’s developmental neuroscience research lab. His work is on axon guidance, and his independent research project has been a structure and function analysis of one of the regulating genes.
Although Evans, who earns class credit for his work, started working on his project in the fall, the lab became official this semester. Two graduate students, three technicians and nine other undergraduates work in the lab. Lowery was one of the primary advocates for Evans’ nomination for the scholarship, she said.
“He displays an intellectual intensity and excitement for research that I have rarely seen in an undergrad,” she said. “I’ve been very impressed with him from the moment he walked into my office.”
After he graduates, Evans plans to eventually attend a six-year M.D.-Ph.D. program. The Goldwater Scholarship will help him get into one of these competitive programs, Roberts said.
“It’s a recognition that it’s not just your school that thinks you’re great, that it’s a larger body of people,” she said.
Evans hopes to do a combination of patient care and research. He wants to conduct research on a disease like tuberculosis or malaria-he hopes to grow the disease in culture in the lab, test out potential drugs, and then see how people in different parts of the world react to the treatment, he said.
“The future of medicine is tailoring through this kind of research treatments for these diseases to specific populations,” he said. “We’re done with the days of there just being one cure for something.”
Although this kind of research is very different from what he does now, Evans believes that it would be an ideal career. Rather than doing lab research as his career, Evans hopes to eventually work somewhere like the World Health Organization, where he could travel and help people around the world.
He plans to take a gap year before applying to graduate programs and travel.
“I’d like to go somewhere weird and tropical and third world and treat people,” he said.
“I don’t want to settle down and study one protein and one gene for 30 years like some people do. There’s nothing wrong with that, you figure out much more with that, and that’s what leads to new drugs and treatment and stuff like that, but I want to travel.”