An Eckerd College junior with a double major in marine science and bio chemistry has been awarded a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious undergraduate award given in the sciences.
Colleen O’Brien, of Chardon, Ohio, is one of six Florida college students awarded a Goldwater Scholarship, created by Congress in 1986 in honor of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater to encourage students to pursue research careers in science, engineering and math.
Eckerd College students have been awarded 14 Goldwater Scholarships and four honorable mentions in the past 24 years. The scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.
O’Brien has gained valuable research experience during her time at Eckerd. She was part of the Eckerd Marine Science Freshman Research Program, studying the genetic structure of Chain pipefish and Dusky pipefish populations in Florida, with Professor William Szelistowski. She spent last summer as a National Science Foundation intern at Western Washington University’s Shannon Point Marine Center researching the influence of eelgrass metabolism on the carbonate chemistry in an estuary. She will spend this summer in Beaufort, N.C., studying how salt marshes respond to sea level rise as part of the NOAA Hollings Program. A member of the Ford Apprentice Scholar Program, O’Brien will work with Eckerd Professor Koty Sharp on a research project using advanced microscopy and next-generation sequencing to investigate the bacterial composition of diseased octocorals.
After she graduates next year, O’Brien plans to pursue graduate work in oceanography and hopes to conduct research in marine biogeochemistry.
“I am delighted that Colleen has been selected as a Goldwater Scholar, which means that she is considered among the very best undergraduate science students in the entire country,’’ said Szelistowski, Eckerd’s Goldwater Faculty Representative. “Eckerd’s record of Goldwater Scholars is pretty remarkable, and speaks to the high quality of its science program.”