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Two Earn Goldwater Honors

Posted on Friday, March 28, 2014

From a highly competitive field of more than 1,100 applicants, Macy Howarth '16 was named a Goldwater Scholar and Alison McCarthy '15 has received Honorable Mention. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship was established in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who devoted 56 years to his country as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. Many Goldwater Scholars go on to garner the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 117 Marshall Awards, 112 Churchill Scholarships, and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.

Howarth a geoscience major with a concentration in atmospheric sciences, was one of only 283 students to be named a Goldwater Scholar. As such, she will receive funds to cover her tuition, fees, books, and room and board for the 2014-2015 academic year. 

When she arrived at the Colleges, Howarth says she was not inclined to study meteorology but after being placed in the "Introduction to Meteorology" course in her first year, she was "hooked."

"As I continue my education and research, my passion for meteorology grows," she explains.

Among the aspects of meteorology she finds fascinating is how it is a field in which everything connects and is intertwined, yet there are still mysteries to solve. Last summer, she worked with her adviser Assistant Professor of Geoscience Nick Metz to learn more about the mystery of why a severe thunderstorm that crossed Lake Michigan was significantly under-forecast - 24 to 32 times more rain fell than was forecast. The storm resulted in $17 million in damage, hundreds of thousands of power outages and one death. Besides the scientific challenge, Howarth was drawn to this research project because of the real-world impacts on the people who live in cities downstream of Lake Michigan. She presented the findings of their work at both the 2014 American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting and the 2014 Northeastern Storm Conference. She also intends to continue this research with Metz as an independent study and later an Honors project at HWS.

This winter, Howarth was one of nine student researchers working on the National Science Foundation-funded "Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS)" project. OWLeS brought together more than a half-dozen colleges, universities and agencies from across the country to collaborate on research in the Lake Ontario and Finger Lakes regions. During lake-effect snow events, HWS student researchers worked shifts to launch weather balloons to collect data on variables like wind speed and temperature throughout the atmosphere. Howarth also worked to "nowcast" and keep teams in the field updated on the position of the lake effect bands, or present the forecast for the day.

Following HWS, she intends to obtain a Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences with a focus in mesoscale meteorology, in order to pursue a career in teaching and research at the undergraduate level.

"I want to teach at an institution like HWS because it has made such an impact on my education," says Howarth. "Through classes, research opportunities and working closely with faculty, I have received the best, hands-on education I could. I want the opportunity to conduct my research with undergraduates and give them the educational experiences I have now."

Howarth, who is minoring in environmental studies and mathematics, is also a rower, resident assistant and William Smith Judicial Board elected member.

For the past two years, McCarthy has been working closely with Assistant Professor of Biology Bradley Cosentino on a number of research projects in the area of conservation biology. From November 2012 through May 2013, she worked as his lab assistant on a project titled "Conservation genetics of banner-tailed kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spectabilis) in restored desert grasslands." McCarthy conducted DNA extraction and other lab tests to understand how habitat restoration affects movements of the kangaroo rats in the Chihuahuan dessert in the southwest United States. The study determined that restored grasslands support kangaroo rat movement. The work will be helpful for conservation biologists and planners when targeting future locations for habitat restoration. McCarthy will present her findings at a biology symposium this year.

While much of her research has taken place in a lab setting, McCarthy participated in the study abroad program in Copenhagen last semester and had the opportunity to take part in a brief field study in Greenland as part of a course about climate change.

"It was an incredible, out of this world experience," says McCarthy, who credits the trip to Greenland with "opening my eyes to all that doing field research offers."

An environmental studies and biology double major, she has always had a passion for biology and plans to pursue a career conducting ecological research in conservation biology.

"While there have been governmental efforts to conserve threatened species, my summer research led me to the realization that in many cases, there is significant lack of knowledge about the species in question - making it difficult to determine the best path for conservation," she explains.

She is currently conducting research on the diversity of amphibians as part of a conservation course she is taking with Cosentino and in collaboration with other institutions.This semester, she will attend a meeting of the partner institutions as one of two student representatives joining Cosentino, then report back to the class about the group's findings.

In the summer, McCarthy will participate in Summer Science Research on campus, which will be her first long-term field study. She and Cosentino will examine whether the movement behavior of spotted salamanders evolves in response to roads. McCarthy will continue the research next year as her Honors project.

"Above all else, Macy's and Alison's success this year is testament to their impressive individual accomplishments as students and researchers. Both are outstanding in the classroom and dedicated and creative researchers," says HWS Health Professions and Fellowship Adviser Scott MacPhail. "HWS is a wonderful place for a young scientist, and our continuing success in the Goldwater Scholarship competition confirms how our outstanding students are taking full advantage of the many opportunities to excel here."

Since 1999, 12 HWS students have been named Barry M. Goldwater Scholars or Honorable Mention recipients in the Goldwater Scholarship competition. 

 


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