Science & Technology

USU Physics, Math Scholar Receives Goldwater Honorable Mention

USU scholar David Maughan, who is majoring in physics and mathematics, received honorable mention from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, the nation's most prestigious STEM competition for undergraduates.

Utah State University scholar David Maughan earned honorable mention from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Each year, the prestigious national competition recognizes outstanding achievements in science and mathematics.  Maughan, a physics and mathematics major, was selected from the 2018 nomination pool of more than 1,200 science, math and engineering students from 2,000 colleges and universities.

“Goldwater honorees are selected from among the nation’s top undergraduate scholars,” says USU President Noelle Cockett. “This well-deserved recognition is a testament to the exceptional achievements of our students in academics, research and service, as well as the outstanding mentorship by our faculty.”

Awards are administered by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.  With this year’s honoree, USU boasts 29 Goldwater Scholars and 16 honorable mention recipients since 1998. USU has averaged 3.1 honorees per year, a figure that rivals top U.S. universities, since 2006, when the Goldwater Foundation began awarding honorable mentions.

Each year, USU may submit up to four nominations for the award; a process coordinated by the USU Honors program that begins in November.  

 A native of the small town of East Greenbush in upstate New York, Maughan decided to become a Utah State Aggie after visiting the USU campus during his high school years.

“I absolutely loved it,” he says. “The campus is beautiful.”

With faculty mentor Charles Torre in USU’s Department of Physics, Maughan is conducting research on gravitational physics. 

“My research combines important discoveries made by 20th Century physicists Albert Einstein and Emmy Noether,” Maughan says. “Einstein’s work explains gravitation and how the universe works on a cosmological scale. Noether’s work explains how symmetries and conservation laws are intertwined in dynamical systems.”

Einstein produced formulas that describe how particles free fall through spacetime. 

“Subsequent results in the general relativity literature have used a variety of ad hoc methods to analyze the symmetries and conservation laws associated with such motion,” Maughan says. “My research is based on the hypothesis that Noether’s work could simplify the solution of the trajectories of these particles and help better understand the related symmetries and conservation laws.”

The Goldwater honoree has shown that formerly reported results are actually a direct, and simple, consequence of Noether’s paper.

“My research uses computer software developed by Professor Torre and colleagues at USU to correctly and quickly perform otherwise formidable analytical calculations in differential geometry and general relativity that might take months or years to do by hand – and sometimes with errors,” he says.
In addition to the Goldwater accolade, Maughan has received a number of academic recognitions, including being named a Seely-Hinckley Scholar, an Arthur Van Vliet Scholar, a Lillywhite Scholar and a Blood-Taylor Research Fellow. He is also the recipient of the USU Department of Physics’ Ottesen Award, given for the highest grades in two semesters of freshman physics.

Maughan was among three USU Physics scholars, and just 40 undergraduates worldwide, selected to participate in the 2018 Jürgen Ehlers Spring School at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics recently held in Potsdam, Germany. 

“Where else, but Utah State, would I have been able to have all these opportunities?” he says. “The faculty here are dedicated to the education and professional advancement of their students.” 

Previous USU Goldwater Honorees

Jake Christensen, physics
Thomas Hill, mathematics
A.J. Walters, biological engineering, biochemistry and biology (Honorable Mention) 

Benjamin Lovelady, physics
Caroline Bourgeois, biology and biochemistry (Honorable Mention)
Alexander Cook, biological engineering (Honorable Mention)

Kathryn Sweet, biochemistry and physics
David Griffin, physics and computer science (Honorable Mention)

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: Kristine Miller, 435-797-3637,
Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

At the April 3, 2018, USU Physics Colloquium, David Maughan reports on his participation in the 2018 J├╝rgen Ehlers Spring School at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics recently held in Potsdam, Germany.


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