This year, 252 students were honored with a Goldwater Scholarship. Among this list of scholars from across the nation was a familiar name, James H. Lau '17. The junior biology major joined Dr. Kristian Hargadon'01 and Lee Ayscue '15 as Hampden-Sydney College students who have received this prestigious award. The scholarship program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.
In order to receive this kind of scholarship, there is a process one has to go through, and it is grueling. There are two portions to the application, the first being the research proposal, and the second being a series of short essays on your personal goals. James went through five or more drafts of each section. He mentioned that it was a brutal process so he was glad he did the majority of it
Luckily, James was not alone on the path to apply. Dr. Nicholas Deifel, assistant professor of chemistry, with whom James twice did summer research, encouraged him to apply and made extensive efforts to assure that James' application was competitive. He also had help from Dr. Hargadon, Elliott Assistant Professor of Biology, and from the Office of Fellowship Advising. Dr. Hargadon offered James an opportunity to perform research in the past and then assisted him with his research proposal for the application. The major goal of James's research is to understand
James stresses that his award was a testament to the College and the help he's received. The personal support provided has shown good results. Since the Office of Fellowship Advising was formed in the 2008-2009 academic year, over 20 students have received national scholarships, including Truman Awards, Fulbright, Gilman, and Goldwater Scholarships. Dr. Lowell Frye, Elliott Professor of Rhetoric and Humanities, and head of the Office of Fellowship Advising explained that Fellowship Advising encourages students to think ambitiously and to help them identify which awards are suited to their academic standing and interests. As the students work on their applications, Fellowship Advising provides feedback and sets up an interview on campus with a panel of professors to critically analyze the student's work. Dr. Frye remarked on the symbiotic relationship they have with the academic offices and the dedicated faculty throughout campus.
If you get the opportunity to sit down with James, it's apparent how humble and grateful he is. When asked how he felt when he found out about the award, he said it took two days to fully understand because he was so shocked. Now that it's starting to sink in he says he feels grateful to have had support, which would be much harder at bigger schools. James has an extensive resume at Hampden-Sydney including Chi Beta Phi, Alpha Chi Sigma, Omicron Delta Kappa, three separate academic awards, work as a tutor, two conference presentations, two articles published in journals, and a variety of other activities. Now he can add Goldwater Scholar to that impressive list.