Two University juniors awarded prestigious scholarship for academic success

University of Nevada, Reno Honors students Aaron Unger and Shahil Pema are named 2017 Goldwater Scholars

Aaron Unger, left, and Shahil Pema have been honored with the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering in America.


4/20/2017 | By: Hannah Richardson |

Two University of Nevada, Reno juniors, Aaron Unger and Shahil Pema, have been named 2017 Goldwater Scholars. The Goldwater scholarship is the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering in America. Unger and Pema earned this honor through their stellar academic records, extensive research activities and hard work during their academic careers.

"The high caliber of outstanding undergraduate researchers at the University shows that our students are being recognized for their high level of coursework in the STEM area, intense engagement in research, close connections to faculty researchers and community partners, and scientific writing ability," Tamara Valentine, director of the University's Honors Program, said.

Pema is a member of the Honors Program and is majoring in biochemistry. Pema's achievements during his academic career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) coursework have been consistent with the Goldwater goals, and he has been recognized through scholarships and a National Science Foundation grant. As a part of the application process, Pema wrote his Goldwater research essay on "Ecological Determinants of Oviposition in Plutella xylostella after Immunological Challenge." Pema is looking to pursue a doctorate degree in pharmacogenomics after graduation next May.

Unger is also a member of the University's Honors Program and is majoring in materials sciences. He has done extensive research in nuclear technology and has several publications from this research. Unger is currently the president of the University's American Nuclear Society and has held this position since the formation of the club. He wrote his Goldwater research essay on "Electrochemical Nuclear Security Applications in Molten Salt Systems." After graduating, he plans to pursue a doctorate degree in materials science with an emphasis in radiochemistry.

According to Valentine, there were nine applicants this year from the University. Each institution is allowed to nominate four students for the scholarship, and a faculty committee was formed to evaluate the applications. Two Goldwater Honorable Mentions, Cayler Miley, a computer science major, and Nicholas Winner, a materials science major, join Unger and Pema in the four nominated at the University.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986. The scholarship was created to honor Barry Goldwater, who served as a soldier and a statesman for 56 years and 30 years in the United States Senate. The scholarship is awarded to students pursuing advanced degrees in the STEM fields who will then continue their research in these fields. The scholarship awards students $7,500 to be used to help pay for tuition, housing, books and other college expenses.

To learn more about the history of the scholarship, to meet past scholars, to apply and much more, visit the Barry Goldwater Scholarship website.

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