Mlana Lore is a junior biology student from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Winning a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, one of the most prestigious undergraduate research awards, hadn’t even crossed Mlana Lore’s mind until she saw her classmate Jennifer Necker take the prize in 2019.
“I knew her. So I asked her about it and the process,” said Mlana, a junior biology student from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “Having someone from Eckerd College win made me think it was possible for me to do it too.”
On March 27, Mlana and Celina Ceballos, a junior marine science student who lives in Vero Beach, Florida, both received the Goldwater Scholarship, a $7,500 award, given to sophomores and juniors who obtain a 3.0 grade point average and plan to have careers in the natural sciences. Both women submitted rigorous essays and abstracts detailing research from internships or student research assistant positions. Founded in 1989, the Goldwater Foundation selected 396 scholars from across the nation for the 2020–2021 academic year. Nineteen Eckerd College students have received the honor since it was established.
“I was actually driving back to Eckerd to pack up my room when the email came,” Celina recalled. “I read it in the Publix parking lot. I was so surprised and overjoyed. This is really an honor and a privilege. I’m so grateful.”
Mlana saw the email notification on her cellphone as she sprawled on her bed. “The subject line was the scholarship, and the first line of the preview said, ‘Congratulations!’ I was shocked. I was prepared to get the ‘We regret to inform you’ email, not this one,” she laughed. After winning, she finally told her parents she had applied—and then explained to them what it all meant.
Celina’s research used for her application abstract came from her summer Research Experience for Undergraduates at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “I worked with coral to see what types adapt to temperature change, which could have large implications within climate change,” she explained.
Mlana serves as a student research assistant in the lab of Assistant Professor of Chemistry Crystal Young-Erdos, Ph.D. “We are looking at a protein in yeast involved in ribosome biogenesis. This protein, in humans, deals with cancer progression, so we’re using it to investigate that,” Mlana said.
Celina Ceballos is a junior marine science student who lives in Vero Beach, Florida.
Both young women credit their success to the support and encouragement of Fellowship and Scholarship Advisor Kathleen Robinson, Ph.D., and Goldwater Campus Representative and Associate Professor of Marine Science and Biology William Szelistowski, Ph.D.
“I would tell future Eckerd students considering the Goldwater to just go for it. I thought I had zero chance of winning, but the process helped me with other writing including my Ford Scholars research and my thesis,” Mlana recalled. “It’s a good guide for presenting your research that could lead to so many other opportunities.”
Most Goldwater awardees go on to graduate studies in the natural sciences, a dream that became more real for Celina recently. Known as the “turtle girl” for her collection of accessories and knick-knacks featuring the animals that drew her attention as a child visiting the beaches of New Jersey, Celina chose turtle conservation and biology as two areas of focus she’d like to explore in the future. Earlier this year, she worked with Assistant Professor of Biology Jeff Goessling’s research project studying gopher tortoise populations in St. Petersburg’s Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. “I’m trying to keep my graduate school option open, so I’ll use this time to really start researching programs,” Celina admitted. “It’s on my list of things to do.”