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Students Earn Top Honors, Awards

  • Irena Bierzynski CAS ’11
  • Alex Simon CAS ’11
Last spring, several Lewis & Clark undergraduates and young alumni garnered national awards for their academic achievements, winning two Goldwater Scholarships and seven Fulbright grants to further their education and research.

Goldwater Scholars

Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships are awarded annually to undergraduate students who have done excellent academic research in mathematics, science, or engineering, and intend to pursue a career in these fields. The $7,500 scholarships, widely considered the preeminent awards for U.S. undergraduates preparing for science careers, were awarded to just 278 students nationally in spring 2010.

Demonstrating growing recognition of Lewis & Clark’s leadership in the sciences, 10 Lewis & Clark students have received Goldwater Scholarships in just the past 5 years.

Irena Bierzynski CAS ’11

Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Major: Chemistry

Why science? I have always found the sciences to be the most engaging area of academic study, especially chemistry. It’s fascinating because the structural properties of molecules can be related to the observable properties of the materials they make up. We as researchers can take what we find in all areas of the sciences and turn it to so many amazing uses.

Research focus: I am researching reaction mechanisms via computational chemistry. In particular, I have been investigating pericyclic and pseudopericyclic reactions. I use high-level computational methods to determine the path through which certain disputed reactions proceed.

The research done by my group has interested other researchers in our field and caused them to bring us different projects. Colleagues have seen our work and suggested other questions that it could be used to answer.

Faculty-student collaboration: I work very closely with faculty, especially my advisor, Professor Jim Duncan. During my time studying and researching at L&C, I have had the opportunity to become close with all my professors. This closeness, of course, makes the learning and working environment much more productive. It has also contributed to my finding the confidence, opportunities, and resources to develop my research on my own. I have gained experience not only in assisting in research, but in designing and presenting my own research.

Future plans: My plans for the future are quite uncertain. I’d like to work in the chemical industry and go on to graduate school, but I’m still exploring the many areas of chemistry and am not sure where I’ll specialize. My education at Lewis & Clark has allowed me to gain the research experience I’ll need to be competitive in my job search and graduate school application process. Lewis & Clark has also shown me options for my future, through visiting speakers from graduate programs and making it possible for me to attend the American Chemical Society meeting this past spring.

Alex Simon CAS ’11

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky

Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Why science? I love the sciences, and particularly biochemistry. Studying in this field really gives you insight into the sheer complexity of how our body operates. We are engineered with a greater intricacy and attention to detail than any machine. The hunt to elucidate how we function on a molecular level is what fuels my desire to perform research.

Research focus: In my research, I am investigating the molecular basis of long-term memory formation in the hippocampus. Research in this field has demonstrated a vast potential to provide profound tangible benefits to humankind. Many neurological diseases involve a component of memory dysfunction. If we can create a molecular model for how long-term memories are formed, this knowledge would no doubt change the landscape of psychopharmacology.

Faculty-student collaboration: I work very closely with my advisor, Professor Janis Lochner. She’s been an excellent research mentor to me since I began working in her lab. Professor Lochner provides me with crucial support and guidance while encouraging and assisting with my own personal research goals.

Future plans: I plan to earn a PhD in neuroscience. I feel like if I had not enrolled in Lewis & Clark, that response would have been quite different. At Lewis & Clark, I am able to foster personal relationships with my professors and also have the ability to carry out research with them. At a larger state school, I don’t think that these opportunities would have ever existed. Thanks to L&C, I am currently not only interested in graduate school, but qualified as well.

Fulbright Winners

Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright Program awards grants to students and professionals for the opportunity to do graduate study or research or to teach at the elementary to the university level in countries all around the world.

Seven graduating seniors and four young alumni from Lewis & Clark will spend the next year teaching and researching on three different continents after receiving prestigious awards from the Fulbright Program. This marks the largest number of Lewis & Clark students and alumni earning Fulbright honors in a single year.

The following scholars received Fulbright awards for the 2010–11 academic year:

Emily Dowd BA ’10, teaching assistant, Germany

Jayson Estassi BA ’10, teaching assistant, Spain

Matthew Hambro BA ’10, teaching assistant, Austria

Jessica Houston BA ’10, teaching assistant, Russia

Stephanie Locke BA ’10, teaching assistant, Slovakia

Megan Mills-Novoa BA ’09, research grant, Chile

Maria Morrison BA ’10, teaching assistant, Taiwan

Peter Seilheimer BA ’09, second-year teaching assistant, Austria

Elisabeth Ullman BA ’09, teaching assistant, Austria

Clara Williams BA ’09, teaching assistant, Austria

Jehan Yahya BA ’10, teaching assistant, Spain

For more information about these scholars, visit

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