Marine science student awarded Barry Goldwater research scholarship

May 9, 2019
Jenn Necker in front of an oak tree

Jennifer Necker ’21 hails from White Rock, New Mexico

Jennifer Necker ’21 was walking from one class to the next across the campus of Eckerd College when an email notification popped up on her cellphone.

It was a letter congratulating her for being awarded the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship.

“I was freaking out,” said the sophomore marine science student from White Rock, New Mexico. “It took me a good 10 minutes to process, and I am amazed I actually made it to the next class.”

Winning any award is an honor, but what floored Jennifer is that three days prior, she received a similar notification from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. In less than a week, Jennifer had been awarded $34,000 in scholarship money to complete her final two years at Eckerd College.

“It’s still a bit of a shock,” she laughed. “I didn’t expect this.”

Jennifer was one of 496 students awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for the 2019–2020 academic year. The prestigious research-focused award centered on the sciences gives recipients $7,500 per year to complete their undergraduate education. Jennifer plans to go on to pursue a Ph.D. in Marine Chemistry, conducting research on deep-sea chemosynthesis and ocean chemistry at a major research institution, according to her Goldwater application. The Hollings Scholarship entitles her to $9,500 a year in scholarship support and a research internship with NOAA in the summer of 2020.

Research is what drew Jennifer to both scholarship opportunities. She has been working in labs since high school and became fascinated by ocean life before she started looking for colleges.

“I’m interested in chemosynthesis—how things with no exposure to the sun, such as the deep sea, take things we may consider toxic and turn them into energy,” Jennifer explained.

When searching for her college, she knew she wanted to go to a small place with marine chemists on faculty. Eckerd’s faculty and successes with the Hollings Scholarship (No. 1 in the U.S.!) seemed like the right fit.

“I really love my professors,” Jennifer exclaimed. “My mentors [marine science professors Laura Wetzel, Amy Siuda and David Hastings] have all been so great.”

This summer, after her Hollings Scholar orientation, Jennifer will report to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts to do a paid summer student fellowship unrelated to her recent awards. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology partner program is on her shortlist of potential graduate schools, but right now she is focused on making the most of her undergraduate career.