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Three Students Awarded Goldwater Scholarships

Three students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have been named 2021–22 Goldwater Scholars, giving UT a shared first place in the SEC for the award.

Congress established the Goldwater Scholarship Program in 1986 to honor US Senator Barry M. Goldwater. The most prestigious undergraduate STEM scholarships in the United States, Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering. The scholarships provide up to $7,500 annually to cover tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

Since 2010, 24 UT students have been named Goldwater Scholars. This year’s recipients are Keri Burge, Elijah Hix, and Owen Queen, all juniors.


Keri Burge

Burge, of Madison, Alabama, is a Haslam Scholar majoring in anthropology with an honors concentration and minoring in biological sciences. Her current research, under Anneke Janzen, assistant professor of anthropology, uses carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes to analyze faunal remains and charred seeds to better understand early colonial human management practices. She has also spent extensive time contributing to projects at UT’s renowned Forensic Anthropology Center.

“I am both excited and honored to be named a Goldwater Scholar,” Burge said. “As a whole, the Goldwater application process has allowed me to evaluate my long-term career goals critically, and while receiving this scholarship has reassured me in my decision to pursue a research-based career, I know that none of this would be possible without the continuous help of my amazing mentors who continue to challenge me, support me, and inspire me daily.”


Elijah Hix

Hix, of Cookeville, Tennessee, is a College Scholar whose major focuses on quantum chemical biology. Hix has pursued research at UT, Tennessee Tech, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Currently he is conducting research at UT under Constance Bailey, assistant professor of chemistry. He subsequently plans to pursue a PhD in biophysics to study the intersection of enzymatic synthesis and cellular networking to develop more adaptable antibiotics. “I am honored to be selected as a 2021 Goldwater Scholar,” Hix said. “It is the culmination of years of work with my two mentors, and I look forward to using this opportunity to propel enzyme modeling and engineering to new heights.”


Owen Queen

Queen, of Watertown, Tennessee, is majoring in honors computer science and honors mathematics, and minoring in statistics. Queen participates in the Cook Grand Challenge Program and the Chancellor’s Honors Program, tutors in the Academic Success Center, and volunteers with Remote Area Medical clinics. His various research projects focus on a social network modeling of opioid addiction, topological data analysis, and machine learning, and involve Professor Vasileios Maroulas and Assistant Professor Christopher Strickland in the Department of Mathematics and Associate Professor Scott Emrich in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Queen hopes to eventually run a lab in a research hospital that uses biomedical informatics and machine learning to improve patient care. “This national award is an incredible recognition of the robust undergraduate research infrastructure at UT,” he said. “Thank you to the EECS and Mathematics Departments for providing me with the resources to explore my academic and research interests.”

An estimated pool of more than 5,000 students nationwide applied this year for the Goldwater. Institutions can nominate four undergraduates annually and nominate a fifth student if one or more of the nominees are transfer students. This year 409 Goldwater Scholars were named from the 1,256 students nationwide nominated by 438 colleges and universities.

UT’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships facilitates the Goldwater application process and works with the Goldwater Selection Committee to choose the final nominees. Students who would like more information about the Goldwater Scholarship and other nationally competitive awards can visit the office’s website and set up an appointment to meet with its staff.