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Willaman Gateway to the Life Sciences at University Park during the spring 2024 semester.

Two Eberly College of Science undergraduates earn Goldwater Scholarships

26 April 2024

 Eberly College of Science juniors Nate Carey and Mabel Tong have earned the 2024 Goldwater Scholarship. 

As recipients of the prestigious Goldwater scholarship that recognizes undergraduates who show exceptional potential as leaders, Carey and Tong can receive up to $7,500 to support their growth and continued research in the fields of natural science, mathematics, or engineering.

Nate Carey

Nate Carey

Nate Carey is a junior in the integrated B.S. Biotechnology-Master of Biotechnology degree program with minors in Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Military Studies. Working with Melissa Rolls, Paul Berg Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Chair of the Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Biosciences Graduate Program, he studies microtubule dynamics in neurons. His research provides fundamental information supporting drug discovery research for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS.

“Undergraduate research has changed everything for me,” Carey said. “While my long-term goals have remained consistent since grade school, I now have a much clearer understanding of what my career will look like in research and development.”

In addition to his research, Carey also works as a technician in the Sartorius Cell Culture Facility, where he has developed his skills in animal cell culture.

“My research in the Rolls Lab and the Sartorius Cell Culture Facility has prepared me for my upcoming research internships in Germany and Switzerland.” In each of these summer experiences, Carey will be working on research projects in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, a field he intends to establish as the focus of his career.

“This award represents the culmination of three years of intensive planning and commitment to my academics and research,” Carey said. “As a result of aiming for Goldwater, opportunities I never imagined possible have become available, and I am well on my way to achieving my long-term goals.”

After graduating from Penn State, Carey plans to pursue a Ph.D. and commission as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve or National Guard, where he intends to serve his military commitment in the Medical Service Corps.

Mabel TongMabel Tong

Mabel Tong is a junior majoring in Biology with a minor in Health Policy and Administration. Since her first year at Penn State, Tong has been conducting research with Yingwei Mao, associate professor of biology, where she studies risk genes for various neurodevelopmental diseases and disorders such as autism spectrum disorders. Tong is passionate about neuroscience research, having participated in research at Penn State and as an intern at AbbVie, where she researched Alzheimer’s disease in the summer of 2023. She has also conducted research with Charlie Anderson, professor of biology. In the Anderson lab, Tong assisted on the Emergency Food Resilience Project under the guidance of postdoctoral researcher Niroshan Shiva, where she explored how humanity might produce food in the event of a loss of sunlight.

“Many times research isn’t as smooth sailing as it seems, and it can feel like you have to face ninety-nine failures before getting one reliable result,” Tong said. “Nonetheless, the late-night hours and weekends spent in the lab feel even more rewarding now. 

Outside of her research, Tong also works as a University Health Services clinic intern, where she interacts directly with patients to assist Health Services staff.

“Earning this award celebrates my accomplishments and dedication I have made toward research during my undergraduate career thus far, and I can’t wait to use this prestigious experience as a sign to pursue more research-focused medical schools,” Tong said.

 After graduating from Penn State Tong plans to take a gap year to pursue research, travel abroad, gain clinical experience, and then attend medical school. She hopes to continue pursuing her interests in teaching and research at the medical school level.

About the Goldwater Scholarship

Each year, the scholarship, named for statesman Barry Goldwater, awards 300 undergraduates in their second or third year of study in the fields of natural science, engineering, and mathematics.

Those interested in competing for a Goldwater Scholarship next year should contact Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring (URFM) to learn more about the scholarship program, verify that they meet the eligibility criteria, and begin the application process. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or permanent residents in their sophomore or junior year and demonstrate an interest in a research career in select STEM fields. Applicants must submit a pre-application form and complete a full application during the fall semester to be considered for University nomination. Penn State nominates four students each year.  

Students interested in developing their potential for research and fellowships can start by meeting with an undergraduate research ambassador, attending a workshop from URFM or applying to the Spark ProgramUndergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education