Two third-years in the College have earned Barry Goldwater Scholarships, which honor undergraduates in the natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, and engineering.
The Goldwater Foundation selected UChicago’s Pradnya Narkhede and Clare Singer along with 238 other students from a field of 1,286 applicants nationwide. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year.
Narkhede is a chemistry and biochemistry major who plans to earn a doctorate in chemical biology, and conduct research on characterizing and manipulating biochemical systems, with pharmaceutical and environmental implications. She also would like to teach at the university level.
“My goal is to lead a team of researchers in using chemistry to probe the mechanisms and dynamics of biological systems,” she said. “I also aim to become a professor and impart my passion for chemistry and biology to the next generation of budding scientists.”
Singer is a physics and mathematics major who plans to pursue a doctorate in geophysical and atmospheric sciences and conduct research on atmospheric climate dynamics with the goal of influencing international climate policy.
“I am looking to work in a scientific community that also has political connections,” Singer said. “I sense the urgency in my field and want to position myself such that my research can have the largest, fastest impact on policy reform regarding climate change and carbon emissions.”
“We are delighted that the Barry Goldwater Scholarship program has recognized the hard and innovative work of Clare and Pradnya,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “Their research, in the fields of chemistry and physics, illustrates the ambitious and visionary creativity of our students in STEM fields.”
Conducting research in the field
Born in rural India, Narkhede said her interest in the natural world was kindled on her family’s farm, where she contemplated the effects of chemical use on sugar cane crops.
As a member of UChicago’s crew team, she became troubled by the impact of industrial pollution on the ecology of the Chicago River. The experience led to a summer internship conducting computation chemistry research with Friends of the Chicago River and DePaul University. She presented her findings to the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Council, for which she continues to collect and analyze data and advise on how to lower levels of bacterial and pharmacologically active compounds in the river.
“Studying the river, a dynamic biological system of massive scale and complexity, through the lens of chemistry, was unforgettable,” Narkhede said. “The work’s immediate relevance in preventing potentially grave environmental consequences stoked an insatiable passion for harnessing chemistry research to better the world.”
Narkhede is currently a data analytics intern at the U.S. Department of Defense and a 2016 Institute of Biophysical Dynamics Scholar with UChicago’s Department of Chemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, researching single-cell epigenetics. She serves on the board of UChicago’s Women in Science and is a participant in Out in STEM, both groups committed to the inclusion of women and other underrepresented groups in the sciences.
As an undergraduate, Singer has worked with research groups in the Departments of Physics and Geophysical Sciences. Last summer she received funding from the Institute for Molecular Engineering to conduct chemical engineering research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. She is currently vice president of the University of Chicago’s Society of Women in Physics, which aims to increase diversity and inclusion in the department through events that allow undergraduates to engage with other students and faculty.
Singer said her interest in climate change began in sixth grade with a decision to become pescatarian. Her interests developed further in high school when she visited an experiment site in Iceland that used metal poles to track a glacier’s retreat. “It was one thing to read about ice melting, the planet warming, and sea levels rising,” she said, “but seeing once-buried poles lying exposed on the ice with my own eyes was more powerful.”
Narkhede and Singer were supported throughout their application process by the College Center for Scholarly Advancement, which supports undergraduates and College alumni through the highly competitive application processes for prestigious national scholarships and fellowships.