Three Penn State juniors named Goldwater Scholars


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three Penn State juniors have been named Goldwater Scholars by the Barry M. Goldwater Foundation, which recognizes undergraduate students in the fields of natural science, engineering and mathematics who are interested in a career in research.

This year’s Goldwater Scholars from Penn State are:

  • Eilene Deng, of State College, Pennsylvania, majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, with a minor in music performance;
  • Peter Forstmeier, of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology; and
  • Bryce Katch, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, double majoring in chemical engineering and biochemistry and molecular biology.

Wendy Hanna-Rose, professor and department head of biochemistry and molecular biology, said it was a privilege to support such “amazing” students.

“After 20 years in the department, I continue to be inspired by their passion, vision, dedication and hard work,” Hanna-Rose said. “We are proud of Eilene, Peter and Bryce and pleased that their academic excellence and promise is being recognized in such a prominent way. On behalf of the whole department, I wish to congratulate each of them and to amplify the message inherent in this award of confidence in their ability to excel in science.”

Deng said she came to Penn State seeking programs that emphasize undergraduate research, and found that focus through the Schreyer Honors College and Millennium Scholars Program. During her first year, Deng had her first research experience with the Gilmour Lab under David Gilmour, professor of molecular and cell biology. Deng’s work has focused on studying a phenomenon called promoter-proximal pausing. After her first year, she conducted research at UTHealth McGovern Medical School and this summer intends to conduct research at Rockefeller University.

After completing her undergraduate degree, Deng said she hopes to conduct research through a post-baccalaureate program or as a research assistant then enter an M.D./Ph.D. program and work as a physician-scientist in an academic setting.

Forstmeier is currently working on a computational project looking at RNA folding and functional RNAs in the Bevilacqua Lab, under Philip Bevilacqua, distinguished professor of chemistry and of biochemistry and molecular biology. He said working in the Bevilacqua lab inspired him to pursue a career in scientific research.

Forstmeier’s professional goals include pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. degree and one day leading a lab focused on the biochemical mechanisms of human disease.

Since fall 2019, Katch has worked in the Boal Lab under Amie Boal, associate professor of chemistry and of biochemistry and molecular biology. Katch uses X-ray crystallography to study enzymes that use iron and molecular oxygen to perform chemistry and investigates how specific amino acid substitutions can alter the structure and function of these enzymes. Katch has also conducted research under Antonios Armau, professor of chemical and of mechanical engineering, where he applied principles of mathematical modeling and control theory to assess how mobility can impact the spread of COVID-19.

Katch said he will pursue a doctorate in bioengineering, then hopefully work at a biomedical research institution where he can examine problems at the biochemical level.

“We are absolutely thrilled to see Bryce named a Goldwater Scholar,” said Phil Savage, department head and Walter L. Robb Family Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Penn State. “He somehow manages to balance being a double major, engaging in research and playing in the Blue Band. His receiving this well-deserved recognition is yet another example of how the strong undergraduate research culture at Penn State can enable students to open new doors and dream new dreams.”

About the Goldwater Scholarship

The scholarship, named for statesman Barry Goldwater, is among the most competitive honors in the country for undergraduates in the STEM fields. Each year, 300 students across the U.S. are awarded $7,500 each through the scholarship program.

Those interested in competing for a Goldwater Scholarship for the next cycle should contact Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring to learn more about the scholarship program, verify that they meet the eligibility criteria and begin the application process. Applicants must be U.S citizens, U.S. nationals or permanent residents in their sophomore or junior year and demonstrate an interest in a research career in select STEM fields. Applicants must submit a pre-application form and complete a full application during the fall semester to be considered for University endorsement.

Additionally, students who are interested in developing their fellowship potential and are entering their second year at Penn State can apply for the Spark Program in fall 2021. First-year students can participate in the spring Spark Program.

Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring is part of Penn State Office of Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at


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Megan Lakatos

headshot of a woman


headshot of a manPeter Forstmeier. IMAGE: PROVIDED

headshot of a manBryce Katch. IMAGE: PROVIDED