Four Montana State undergrads win prestigious Goldwater scholarships

BOZEMAN — Four undergraduate students from Montana State University have been awarded prestigious scholarships given by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

The MSU recipients of the 2024 Goldwater Scholarships are Heath Caldwell, a junior from Clancy majoring in paleontology and organismal biology; Tyler Delridge, a junior from Missoula majoring in chemical engineering; Amberly Guerrero, a sophomore from Chelan, Wash., double-majoring in chemical and biological engineering; and Amanda Haab, a junior from Helena double-majoring in microbiology and cell biology, and neuroscience. All four are students in MSU’s Honors College.

“It is with pride that today we celebrate these four Goldwater scholars and the faculty who have mentored them at Montana State University,” said Waded Cruzado, MSU president. “These students are talented scholars who will have the potential to accomplish extraordinary things.”

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation announced today that it has awarded competitive scholarships to 508 undergraduates this year. This year’s recipients were selected from a pool of 1,353 college sophomores and juniors nominated by 446 academic institutions. The award from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation comes with up to $7,500 per year for tuition, books and room and board. MSU is one of the top universities nationally in terms of the number of its students who have received the award, with a total of 90 recipients since the scholarship was established in 1989. This is the fourth year that four MSU students have received the honor, which is among the most prestigious available to undergraduates pursuing research careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Heath Caldwell. MSU photo by Colter Peterson

At MSU, Caldwell works under the guidance of David Varricchio, interim head of the Department of Earth Sciences.

“A life goal of mine is to be able to conduct research as a paleontologist,” Caldwell said. “Dr. Varricchio has a reputation for getting undergraduate students involved in paleontological research that is both interesting and publishable. His guidance has not only enabled me to get involved in the world of research paleontology but also fulfilled my lifelong dream of studying prehistoric life.”

Outside the classroom and field research, Caldwell serves as the vice president of the MSU Dead Lizard Society and volunteers at the Museum of the Rockies, where he excavates, prepares and catalogs fossils. He said he plans to pursue a master’s and a doctorate in a field related to paleontology.

“I hope to be able to conduct paleontological research with students for the entirety of my career,” he said. “Receiving this scholarship is not only an honor, but also a reminder of the faculty at Montana State and elsewhere that have helped me get to where I am now. The intensive work that everyone put in so that I could succeed reflects how much MSU cares about its students.”

Yves Idzerda, dean of the College of Letters and Science, said the lessons from Caldwell’s research may be applicable beyond paleontology.

“Heath is an amazing student who is seeking a double major while a member of the Honors program at MSU. His research area of comparing the dental morphology of fossilized hadrosaurs (duck-billed dinosaurs) to understand the ancient ecosystems these dinosaurs lived and evolved in helps us understand how changing an ecosystem eventually changes those who live in it. An important lesson to keep in mind,” Idzerda said.

Tyler Delridge. Photo courtesy Tyler Delridge.

Delridge works in the Joan and Will Broderick Lab, an opportunity he learned about through an honors organic chemistry class.

“I knew nothing about the lab other than that they did organic chemistry,” Delridge said. “I’m extremely happy that I took the opportunity and wouldn’t change a thing.”

When he’s not in the class or lab, Delridge said he volunteers as a mentor in the CAP program and serves as a youth group leader at a local church. He said he also regularly travels to developing nations to do community volunteer work.

After graduation, he said he plans to get a doctorate in pharmaceutical engineering.

“I’d like to bring reasonable health benefits to those who don’t have access through engineering, technology and charity,” Delridge said, expressing gratitude to those who have helped him along his academic journey. “It almost feels unethical to claim this scholarship as my own. My gratitude cannot be overstated.”

Amberly Guerrero. MSU photo by Colter Peterson

Guerrero works in MSU’s temperature corrosion laboratory under principal investigator Paul Gannon, professor of chemical and biological engineering.

“I met Dr. Gannon on a whim while seeking advice about tackling a major or minor with a chemical engineering major during my first semester of freshman year,” Guerrero said. “I was extremely fascinated by his interdisciplinary research with high-heat temperature corrosion while increasing educational experiences for others.”

When not in the classroom or lab, the Presidential Scholar is a resident adviser in MSU’s Hapner Hall and serves as a teaching assistant for the mathematics department. She also participates in the Undergraduate Scholars Program, which contributes to furthering research connections across campus.

“I plan to either pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering or go into industry. If pursuing a Ph.D., I plan to conduct research in materials science to maximize sustainable and eco-friendly green material synthesis at a national laboratory or academic institution,” she said.

She added that she has an opportunity to work with British Petroleum this summer.

“If I decide to go into industry, I plan to pursue a career as a process engineer to increase sustainable energy in the oil and gas industry in hopes of creating a positive impact in the field,” Guerrero said.

She said being named a Goldwater Scholar exceeds her “wildest expectations.”

“This recognition motivates me to continue pursuing excellence in my academic journey,” Guerrero said. “The sheer magnitude of this acknowledgment leaves me humbled and eager to further contribute meaningfully to scientific exploration and innovation. I am immensely grateful to the mentors in chemical engineering who have shaped me into the researcher that I am today.”

Brett Gunnink, dean of the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering, expressed pride in Guerrero and Delridge being named Goldwater Scholars.

“I was very excited to learn about MSU’s continued success in producing Goldwater scholars,” Gunnink said. “I am very proud of both Tyler and Amberly and the faculty that supported their success. The achievements of students like Amberly and Tyler exemplify the excellence that is a hallmark of an MSU engineering education.”

Amanda Haab. MSU photo by Colter Peterson

Haab takes an interdisciplinary approach to her research.

“I worked in the Matthew Fields Lab for my first two years at MSU when I was exploring antimicrobial ceramics,” she said. “Now, I work in a hybrid model in the Phil Stewart Lab researching 3D-printed materials with NASA EPSCoR Team. Elizabeth Sandvik has also been a critical part of my laboratory work over the last year.”

Fields is the director of MSU’s Center for Biofilm Engineering, where Stewart is a Regents Professor of chemical and biological engineering and Sandvik is a research engineer.

When not in the classroom or lab, Haab’s interests led her to student government and administration. She served as chief justice of the Associated Students of Montana State University’s Supreme Court. She also worked as the undergraduate research ambassador for the Office of Research and Economic Development, a position that helps support undergraduate research through programming such as the inaugural Undergraduate Research Fair, which took place earlier this year.

Haab said she was “shocked and excited” to have been named a Goldwater scholar.

“I’m pretty stoked,” Haab said. “This was something that I had my sights on as something to work toward when I started at MSU. I feel like I’ve had the most stellar undergraduate research experience I could have had. I’m grateful for everybody who has supported me through this experience.”

Sreekala Bajwa, vice president of the College of Agriculture, said she is impressed with Haab’s accomplishments as an undergraduate student at MSU.

“Congratulations to the four outstanding students from MSU who received the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship this year,” Bajwa said. “Amanda is doing exciting research on water treatment systems for the International Space Station. I am impressed by the multiple recognitions she won, with the Goldwater Scholarship being the latest. I am very proud of Amanda and wish her a bright future.”

Congress established the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation in 1986 to serve as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of Sen. Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate.