Two Juniors Earn Goldwater Recognition

Two University of San Diego juniors, Taylor Cottle (pictured, right) and Harrison Schmachtenberger, have received national recognition from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.

Cottle, a biochemistry and music double major, is one of a select few California undergraduate college students to be named a Goldwater Scholar. Schmachtenberger, a mechanical engineering major and mathematics minor from Colorado, is a Goldwater Honorable Mention.

"I was absolutely ecstatic to learn that I'd won the award," said Cottle, who initially learned of the award when an East Coast-based friend's Facebook message congratulated him. "There's a lot of prestige associated with the award, especially since it is very competitive."

Cottle was one of 252 students nationwide to receive the Goldwater Scholar award. It is awarded to college sophomores and juniors and is designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering. 

Cottle's selection marks the third year in a row that a USD student has been selected as a Goldwater Scholar. And, along with Schmachtenberger's honorable mention, it's the fifth straight year USD has had either a Goldwater Scholar or honorable mention recipient. Furthermore, both students, and other USD applicants, received support and guidance from a Goldwater Scholarship Committee of USD faculty members: Curtis Loer (Biology), Joan Schellinger (Chemistry/Biochemistry), Mike Shulman (Mathematics), Ryan McGorty (Physics), Ernie Kim (Electrical Engineering) and Lukasz Pruski (Math/Computer Science).

Cottle, also a current Beckman Foundation Scholar, said the national recognition is helped by the fact that Goldwater winners are chosen by their home state.

"Knowing the research I'm doing qualifies me to be among the top 25-30 undergraduate residents in California is validating for me."

Cottle has been working in Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Joseph Provost's lab for three years. Most notably, Cottle's research involves characterizing gene expression and function of Sodium Hydrogen Exchanger Isoform 1 (NHE1) and Calcineurin Homologous Protein (CHP2) in Human Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.

In addition to his dedication to science research, Cottle is also an accomplished musician. He's a member of USD's Choral Scholars and, since fourth grade, plays cello. He learned to play piano at age 4. He's performed at weddings, for his church and played on an international film's music score for "United," a movie about the famed English Premier League soccer's Manchester United.

His ability to balance biochemistry and music well is critical to his development.

"Both build your determination because you have to be determined to put in the hours to be a good performer and put in the hours to really carry out an experiment and have data you can trust."

Honorable Mention Honored

Schmachtenberger said he was thrilled to receive his Goldwater designation.

"I feel honored to be honorable mention. It's very nice to see this recognition on a national level. It's a universally accepted benchmark of accomplishment.”

Schmachtenberger's selection is a reward for the time and effort he's been putting into engineering projects, research and making the most of his USD opportunities.

He was one of five students involved with Simple Seat, Better Lives, which created an inexpensive seat to help disabled Ugandans have more comfortable access for latrine use. The product was inspired after Schmachtenberger and his classmates heard 2014 Woman PeaceMaker Margaret Orech's story about losing her lower right leg in a bus accident when it hit a landmine. The project won $3,000 in the 2015 Social Innovation Challenge, raised additional money after the SIC and this past January, Schmachtenberger and two Simple Seat co-creators travelled to Uganda so community members could test prototypes and give the team important feedback.

Simple Seat received support from Mechanical Engineering Professor Frank Jacobitz, who encouraged Schmachtenberger to apply for the Goldwater Scholar. Schmachtenberger also credits Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Imane Khalil, PhD, who is overseeing his work on nuclear heat transfer research with a classmate. "Dr. Khalil has been pushing us very hard on the (nuclear heat transfer) research. It's very topical and very important as 20 percent of the U.S.'s power is nuclear."

Everything Schmachtenberger's done at USD has validated his decision to choose it over other colleges. He's been an Associated Students Senator, a member of USD's Honors Program, USD's Mortar Board chapter, involved in USD Engineering honors societies, Pi Tau Sigma and Tau Beta Pi, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Engineers Without Borders, and more.

"The USD experience is unlike any other in the country," he said. "I talk to some of my friends from high school about their engineering experience in college and it's all coursework and laboratory work. At USD, we have an opportunity to go to Tijuana regularly on the weekends to help build houses; I went to the Dominican Republic my sophomore year because a professor here is passionate about developing a community there with water filtration and fuel-efficient and sustainable stoves for cooking. And going to Uganda gave me a global perspective and a very humbling experience."

— Ryan T. Blystone