Drake University students Colton Sleister and Lorien MacEnulty are 2019–2020 recipients of the Goldwater Foundation Scholarship, a prestigious award for students pursuing careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering. Sleister, a chemistry and biochemistry, cell, and molecular biology (BCMB) double major from Ankeny, Iowa, and MacEnulty, a physics, math, and news journalism triple major from Colorado Springs, Colorado were selected from more than 1,200 students nominated nationwide.

Colton works in Professor of Chemistry Gholam Mirafzal’s organic research laboratory to investigate ionic liquids synthesis and its application as medium for organic reactions, a green approach in conducting reactions in chemistry. He plans to go to graduate school and obtain his Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry.

“I am thrilled to be named a scholar by the Goldwater Scholarship Program, and I want to thank the numerous Drake University professors, including Drake University’s Goldwater coordinator, Professor Gholam Mirafzal, for assistance in preparing a strong application,” Sleister said. “I owe my success in the Goldwater Program to their experience and helpfulness. Most importantly, I want to thank Drake University professors for their dedication to student learning in both classroom and research settings. I am grateful to attend a university with professors who are dedicated to student learning in classroom and research settings.”

Lorien works in Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Athanasios Petridis’ research laboratory in the area of computational particle physics. Her goal is to obtain her Ph.D. in either theoretical, computational, or mathematical physics.

“It is with heartfelt enthusiasm that I accept induction into such a calculated fellowship, comprising of some of the most august and tenacious scientific minds of my generation. I am honored to have been offered even an inkling of association with these noteworthy epistemics as well as those of years past, united under the legacy of Barry Goldwater. I look forward to the discoveries we shall undoubtedly and collectively unearth in the years to come.

“With an eye of gratitude, I look toward the Drake physics department, more specifically my professors and colleagues who have provided me with an unparalleled educational experience. A special thanks to Professor Athan Petridis, revered mentor and chair of the Drake Department of Physics and Astronomy; to Professor David Ernst, my Vanderbilt research advisor; and to Terrance Pendleton, esteemed professor of the Drake Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.”

The U.S. Congress established the Goldwater Foundation Scholarship in 1986 in honor of Senator Barry M. Goldwater. The scholarship was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering. Sleister and MacEnulty will each receive $7,500 for the 2019–2020 academic year.

“I am so excited for Colton and Lorien to receive this nationally prestigious and highly competitive scholarship,” said Mirafzal. “Colton and Lorien are great researchers and will be excellent scientists who will greatly contribute to their respective fields of studies. They are well-rounded students with outstanding records of accomplishments with their classes, research, extracurricular activities, and community services.”

Professor Mirafzal works closely with student candidates on their award applications and supports them in their research efforts.

Universities are allowed to nominate up to four undergraduate students for the Goldwater Foundation Scholarship each year. The application process is highly competitive and the award is widely considered the most prestigious of its kind in the nation.

Prior to Sleister and MacEnulty, Drake’s recent Goldwater Scholar was Shannon Herzog, who received the award in 2018–2019. More information about the Goldwater Scholarship is available online.

Lorien MacEnulty, a physics, math, and news journalism triple major from Colorado Springs, Colorado


Colton Sleister, a chemistry and BCMB double major with a minor in biology from Ankeny, Iowa