Mathematics and Chemistry Double Major Named Rhodes Finalist
In late November, Jordan Gonzalez BA ’21 became the latest Lewis & Clark student to earn the title of Rhodes Scholar finalist, a highly prestigious opportunity for undergraduate students from across the world to further their education at the University of Oxford.
The scholarship recognizes outstanding students whose excellence extends beyond their academic ability, emphasizing leadership, service, character and talent. While Gonzalez did not ultimately receive the scholarship, his placement as a finalist is an achievement in itself––this year, more than 2,300 students began the application process, with spots for only 32.
Gonzalez, a chemistry and mathematics double major, was a natural fit for the scholarship program. Originally from Chandler, Arizona, he came to Lewis & Clark as a first-generation college student, interested in playing baseball at the collegiate level and participating in the lab research of the chemistry department.
“I didn’t really see myself at a big state school,” Gonzalez says. “I function well in small group sizes and small cohorts. I can attribute a lot of my success to being able to work with faculty and get to know them.”
Louis Kuo, who quickly became a mentor and folded him into his research through the John S. Rogers Science Program. The pair went on to conduct advanced research on sulfide oxidation and spectroscopic techniques, co-authoring an article manuscript for Inorganic Chemistry – a peer-reviewed journal.Before his freshman year, Gonzalez was introduced to Professor of Chemistry
In his first year, Gonzalez was named a Pamplin Scholar, and then later a Goldwater Scholar, before completing a senior honors thesis in the chemistry department as a junior, a rare accomplishment. Between classes, office hours and social events before the pandemic, Gonzalez was able to build close relationships with faculty including Chair of Chemistry Anne Bentley, who guided him through potential postgraduate plans.
“It was easy to get involved,” Gonzalez says of his work across departments. “It was easy to work hard.”
This hard work was balanced alongside Gonzalez’s position on the baseball team, which he trained to join after being cut his first year. He now serves as pitcher, team captain and co-chair of the Student-Athletic Advisory Committee, a testament to his unwavering perseverance.
Gonzalez says the application process for the Rhodes Scholarship was “all hands on deck,” a collaborative effort that took over four months. He worked closely with Associate Professor of History and fellowship advisor David Campion to gather recommendations, fine-tune his personal statement and prepare for the interview, which was conducted entirely online.
Lewis & Clark faculty are well-versed in preparing students for rigorous scholarship applications. Gonzalez is the fourth Lewis & Clark student to be named a Rhodes finalist in the last five years. Just two years ago, Katie Kowal BA ’17 earned a Rhodes Scholarship and is now studying for her DPhil in Geography and the Environment.
Although Gonzalez was not selected for the Rhodes Scholarship, he still intends to pursue a higher degree at the University of Oxford. Of particular interest is the university’s Synthesis for Biology and Medicine CDT, a four-year DPhil program that closely aligns with his interest in pharmaceutical research.
“I’ve always been interested in organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry,” Gonzalez says. “In this last year I’ve learned a lot about how certain drugs work and how drug research aims to mitigate certain side effects. I think I can contribute to that area, and the research I’ve been able to do has given me the tools to think about doing my own research.”