Chemical engineering sophomore Steven DelaCruz chose the Honors Program at the University of Nevada, Reno because he wanted to be in an educational environment that was stimulating and collaborative, along with being surrounded by supportive professors.
It is in this environment that DelaCruz has become the first-ever Udall Scholar at the University, a scholarship based on the commitment to careers in the environment, along with being one of two winners in the state of Nevada of the intensely competitive national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.
DelaCruz is the first student to simultaneously receive both scholarships while attending the University.
DelaCruz graduated as valedictorian from Canyon Springs High School's Leadership and Law Preparatory Academy in North Las Vegas and came to the University as a freshman because of its affordability and Honors Program. This is where DelaCruz made the decision to pursue an advanced degree in engineering. He has hopes to one day become a professor in the field.
"I've always possessed an interest in the sciences, but I never fully developed a passion until I started working on a solar energy research project in the SOLAR lab at the University of Nevada," DelaCruz said. "Not only did I enjoy the intellectual engagement of carrying out experiments, I realized that the solar research I was conducting could ultimately help out my home state of Nevada."
DelaCruz learned about both the Udall and Goldwater scholarships while he was a freshman in the Honors Program. He submitted an application of interest to the University for both of them during the first semester of his sophomore year, and Honors Program Director Tamara Valentine nominated DelaCruz on behalf of the University.
"Steven has chosen the most rigorous plan of undergraduate study an undergraduate student at the University can achieve," Valentine said. "Only a sophomore, Steven already has a strong record of academic success and is committed to making a difference in the field of environmental solar engineering. He reflects the spirit of the Udall scholar and the Goldwater scholar. To receive two national fellowships in one year is an incredible achievement."
The Goldwater Scholarship will give DelaCruz $7,500 per year for two years, and the Udall Scholarship is a one-time award of $5,000. The scholarships will help DelaCruz pay for his next two years of undergraduate schooling so that he can continue on to graduate school, where he wishes to earn his doctorate in chemical engineering to conduct research in solar energy and teach at the university level.
"This is great news and in line with our focus on the initiative for a globally competitive engineering and computer science education," Manos Maragakis, dean of the University's College of Engineering, said.
DelaCruz has a long list of impressive credentials, including acting as an Honors Ambassador, a group of Honors students who promote the University to prospective Honors students and their families. He is also the founder of the University's Sustainable Energy Network, a student organization involved in the renewable energy industry and green projects.
"These scholarships will be a great boost to my future career goals," DelaCruz said. "I believe they will open up several doors in regards to graduate schools and graduate fellowships and hopefully lead me to an opportunity to do the research in which I am interested. Additionally, with the Udall scholarship, I'll have the chance to meet with the 49 other scholars at a four-day orientation in Tucson. At this orientation, I hope to continue improving myself through interactions with other admirable students and workshops."
Along with being an active officer in the University's chapters of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and Engineers without Borders, DelaCruz was honored with the Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad award to spend a summer in Spain last summer as a part of the University Studies Abroad Consortium.