Gary Hoppenworth, a computer science and mathematics major, and Ashley Santana, a biomedical sciences and biotechnology major, have received the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, the first time two UCF students have qualified for the scholarship in the same year.

The Goldwater Scholarship, named after former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, was established by Congress in 1986, and recognizes college sophomores or juniors who show promise in becoming research leaders in fields such as science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

The scholarship is highly competitive—fewer than 400 students received funding nationally  this year.

The scholarship is highly competitive—396 students received funding this year out of 1,343 nominated.

As a Burnett Honors Scholar, Hoppenworth has conducted research on string algorithms and data structures, conducting research at UCF’s string algorithms lab and the Air Force Research Laboratory Directorate, where he did work related to national security.

“Being recognized with the Goldwater Scholarship will help when I apply to graduate school and apply for graduate fellowships,” he says.

Hoppenworth ultimately hopes to conduct theoretical and applied computer science research at a national research lab. He said he’s particularly interested in studying computational complexity theory, developing faster, more efficient algorithms that could speed up vital work in the fields of biology and computer science.

“Gary has an extraordinary gift for mathematical reasoning over discrete structures and is likely to become a brilliant theoretical computer scientist over the next decade,” says Sumit Kumar Jha, the Charles N. Millican Assistant Professor of Computer Science at UCF.

Santana, a McNair Scholar, has been researching the development of “smart” adhesive wound dressings from electrical stimulation of human dermal fibroblast cells.

“The integration of this technology in an adhesive can potentially prevent bacterial infections and the severity of scarring,” she says.

“I never expected that my involvement in research would bring me this far,” Santana says. “The Goldwater Scholarship is a prestigious award in the life sciences and comes with a community that I am so excited to be a part of.”

In the fall, Santana plans to apply to biotechnology and pharmacology doctoral programs, and eventually become a research scientist seeking to optimize drug delivery for patients and support personalized medicine.

“Ashley has the type of curiosity and perseverance that will enable her to be a research leader in science,” said Kaitlyn Crawford, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at UCF.

If you are a student interested in applying for a Goldwater Scholarship or one of the many other STEM-related scholarships available, contact Morgan Bauer, director of the Office of Prestigious Awards, at [email protected]. Applicants should be U.S. citizens or permanent residents in their sophomore or junior year of college.