Science & Technology

USU's Gold Standard: Two Aggies are 2015 Goldwater Honorees

Kathryn "Katie" Sweet is a 2015 Utah State University Goldwater Scholar.

Utah State University undergraduate Kathryn “Katie” Sweet is a 2015 Goldwater Scholar and, for the second consecutive year, student David Griffin received honorable mention in a prestigious national competition that recognizes outstanding achievements in science and mathematics.

The award is administered by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.  With this year’s honorees, USU boasts 24 Goldwater Scholars and 12 honorable mention recipients since 1998.

“This is well-deserved recognition for these students and a tremendous honor for Utah State University,” says USU President Stan Albrecht. “This award is a testament to the exceptional achievements of these individuals in academics, research and service, as well as the outstanding mentorship by our faculty.”

Each year, USU may submit up to four nominations for the award; a process coordinated by the USU Honors program that begins in November. Scholarship award recipients receive up to $7,500 toward annual tuition and expenses.

USU’s 2015 honorees are members of the USU Honors Program and are Undergraduate Research Fellows. In fact, the two students, who study how leaves communicate with each other, are research colleagues in the lab of physics professor David Peak and biology professor Keith Mott. A physics and computer science major, Griffin writes computer programs that Sweet, a biochemistry and physics major, uses to model the behavior of plant stomata, pores in leaves that control gas exchange.

Scholar Katie Sweet, biochemistry and physics

Since childhood, Katie has enjoyed mathematics, but it wasn’t until high school that the Salt Lake City native discovered her passion for science.

“I attended Cottonwood High School, which offered a three-year combined physics and math program,” says Sweet, who graduated from high school in 2013. “I owe a great thanks to the mentoring of these high school teachers for fostering a love and appreciation of the sciences in me. After taking math and physics every day for the entirety of my high school career, it became the only career path I held any interest in.”

Sweet’s other passion is tennis. The undergrad is a member of USU’s women’s tennis team and a Mountain West Academic All-Conference Scholar Athlete Award recipient.

“I chose USU because it extended the opportunity to pursue both athletics and academics,” she says.

Balancing classes, research and athletics is a challenge, but Sweet takes it in stride.

“The secret is good time management skills,” she says. “Though I will admit I sometimes lose sleep.”

Sweet plans to pursue graduate studies in biophysics.

“It’s a great field to best synthesize my two scientific passions: physics and biochemistry,” she says. “My undergraduate education is spanning everything from quantum mechanics to immunology, and I believe this diversity will give me a broader perspective while studying complex biological systems.”

Sweet also views herself as a role model.

“I’d like to serve as a mentor to young women entering the math and science fields,” she says.

David Griffin, physics and computer science

Roy, Utah, native David Griffin put USU on his college list because of “great things” he’d heard about student research opportunities.

“I knew USU had an incredible undergraduate research program and I wanted to do research and learn things on my own,” he says. “I also heard great things about the professors here.”

While deciding on a college destination, Griffin met with Department of Physics advisor Karalee Ransom and plans began to fall into place.

“She was so helpful and really went out of her way to help me,” Griffin says. “It was clear she puts students first and I chose USU. I can’t imagine going anywhere else.”

The young scientist credits his parents with fostering his interest in science.

“My love of learning came in large part from being home schooled by my highly educated parents,” Griffin says. “My science education was extremely hands-on. We were always doing some kind of experiment or another — in fact, we gained a reputation in the neighborhood.”

As a child, Griffin pored over biographies of great scientists, such as Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Erdos.

“I idolized these people and wanted to follow in their footsteps,” he says. “My parents encouraged me to ask questions and not simply believe what they taught me.”

Following graduation from USU, Griffin plans to pursue a doctorate in physics and conduct research in computational physics to better model complex physical processes.

Previous USU Goldwater Scholars


Rachel Nydegger Rozum, physics and mathematics

David Griffin, physics and computer science (Honorable Mention)


J. Tyler Gish, chemistry and physics

Jordan Rozum, physics and mathematics


Mitch Dabling, civil engineering

Sarah Mousley, mathematics

Jordan Rozum, physics and mathematics (Honorable Mention)

Rachel Ward, physics and mathematics (Honorable Mention)


Linsey Johnson, physics

Brooke Siler, biochemistry and economics

Brian Tracy, physics

Karen Nielsen, mechanical and aerospace engineering (Honorable Mention)


Daniel Fenn, physics

Justin Koeln, mechanical and aerospace engineering

Robert Call, physics (Honorable Mention)


Taren McKenna, physics and mathematics

Cody Tramp, molecular biology and biochemistry

B.J. Myers, physics (Honorable Mention)


Jodie Barker-Tvedtnes, physics

Tamara Jeppson, geology and physics

Sydney Chamberlin, physics and mathematics (Honorable Mention)

Cody Tramp, molecular biology and biochemistry (Honorable Mention)


Jennifer Albretsen-Roth, physics

Arthur Mahoney, computer science and mathematics

Jodie Barker-Tvedtnes, physics (Honorable Mention)


Logan McKenna, electrical engineering

Heidi Wheelwright, physics

Keith Warnick, physics (Honorable Mention)


Stephanie Chambers, biology

David Hatch, physics


Jamie B. Jorgensen, physics


Lara B. Anderson, physics and mathematics


Jeff Jacobs, mechanical engineering

Related links:

Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program

USU Honors Program

Contact: Amber Summers-Graham, 435-797-3790,

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

David Griffin received honorable mention in the prestigious national competition that recognizes outstanding achievements in science and mathematics.


Chemistry 92stories Physics 73stories Goldwater 20stories

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