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Skidmore College

Logan Brenner '12 named Goldwater Scholar

May 16, 2011
Brenner in the lab

Logan D. Brenner '12, a member of Skidmore's Honors Forum and a geosciences major, has been named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar in the nation's most competitive science scholarship program. 

The scholarship covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

The Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who served 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The scholarship program fosters and encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering.

This year, 275 scholars were selected nationwide from a field of 1,095 students who were nominated by their colleges and universities based on academic achievement and in consideration of future goals. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

Brenner, a resident of Penn Valley, Penn., spent the spring semester on the tiny, rural island of South Caicos, with the School for Field Studies, where she participated in an environmental studies program that focused on preserving marine resources from an ecological and economic standpoint. She participated in the Coral Reef Monitoring project, studying stony coral abundance and how the dominant reef building coral species may vary with depth.

Because of the distance and the difference in time, Brenner learned of her Goldwater status in an unusual manner. She reports, "Winning the Goldwater was utterly thrilling! Here I was, studying abroad, surfacing from a scuba dive, and then receiving this news via the Internet. I was shocked and almost speechless but as my family and friends began to congratulate me, and I repeatedly checked the website, it became more real. I am so honored that the scholarship board chose to recognize me as a Goldwater Scholar."

Simply being nominated for the award was an achievement, says Brenner. "Since every college or university can only recommend four students to apply for the scholarship my aim was just to be nominated by Skidmore. I was so happy to achieve this goal. I received excellent guidance and support from my professors, Drs. Kyle Nichols (my advisor from the start), Richard Lindemann, Amy Frappier, teaching associate Sarah Stelmack and others, who helped edit my writing. Once I was a finalist, I tuned up my application essays, which was a real labor of love because I am passionate about my paleoclimate research and wanted it to be as well represented as possible."

Brenner believes that her earlier academic experiences were instrumental in preparing for Goldwater Scholar consideration. "The most important highlight of my Skidmore experience was taking part in the summer collaborative research program with Dr. Amy Frappier. Without that experience I would not have been a competitive candidate for the Goldwater and I now have so much more experience working on a research project and handling the associated workload. I was able to present my summer research at the national conference of the American Geophysical Union held in San Francisco, which opened up many doors for me and helped me win the Goldwater," she explained.


Brenner under the sea

In addition to her academic work, Brenner has been active with SGA. 

Her current research (which involves working with Professor Amy Frappier) is a paleoclimate project using a stalagmite as a climate proxy (record) and determine if it recorded any ash fallout from the Toba Super Eruption approximately 77,000 years ago. The Goldwater recognition will be helpful, according to Brenner. "For both the short- and long-term I believe that this acknowledgement will work in many ways. I hope that it will give my research projects more credibility, and I also hope that it may make other scientists want to work with me. Being a Goldwater Scholar is motivating me to continue to do more work and explore more facets of geoscience."

That exploration will likely involve planning for post-Skidmore study, she acknowledged. "Since I began at Skidmore, I knew that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree, however since becoming a Goldwater Scholar I am more driven to start in a graduate program specifically in paleoclimatology or paleoceanography. I am very interested in the way that understanding past climate can help predict future climate shifts. The oceans fascinate me as well because of their dynamism and influential presence throughout Earth's history."

Brenner added, "My increased desire to attend graduate school, stemming from the receipt of the award, is helping me recognize which courses I should take in order to supplement my major and develop myself as a strong and competitive candidate for a Ph.D. program."

For Brenner, one way to maintain competitiveness is by thinking creatively. "I believe creative thought matters, " she said. She added, "People may think that science is completely formulaic, but in order to make progress it is necessary to stray from tradition now and then. At least in the field of paleoclimatology, and many others, the 'right' answer is not always known?there can be many ways of seeking clarity. Creative thought, prevalent in all my classes, particularly my geo classes, is what allows me to 'bend my brain' as Professor Kyle Nichols has said to me, and to try and think of many different answers to one question as well as many questions for one geological process or formation in order to best understand it."

Jonathan Brestoff '08 received a Goldwater Scholarship in 2006.

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