UM Student Wins Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

April 09, 2015

MISSOULA – University of Montana sophomore Rachel Dickson recently learned she earned a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, the top national award for undergraduate research in science, math and engineering. Dickson is UM’s 16th Goldwater Scholar.

The Barry Goldwater Excellence in Education Foundation trustees awarded 260 scholars this year. As a Junior Scholar, Dickson is entitled to two years of funding up to $7,500 per year for tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

Dickson is a sophomore from Missoula majoring in biology and environmental studies. She is the daughter of Mary and David Dickson of Missoula and a graduate of Missoula’s Big Sky High School. She plans a career researching and teaching in sustainable agriculture and biodiversity. Her special research focus is on native pollinators.

Photo of Rachel Dickson

“I’m really excited to combine my goal of being an environmentalist with science research,” Dickson said. “I love discovering new things and sharing them with others.”

Dickson began studying honeybees and mapping their pollination patterns during her time at Big Sky High School. Her decision to attend UM was influenced by the opportunity to continue working with the mentors she established while in high school.

“My first two years of college have helped me realize that I want to direct my research toward the larger environmental problem of sustainable agriculture,” she said.

Dickson will use the scholarship to investigate which aspects of floral bloom increase incentive for pollination efforts and subsequently increase the strength of pollinators and floral communities.

“This research is exciting because it allows me to approach environmentalism through obtaining concrete scientific data,” Dickson said.

The Goldwater Scholarship was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, science and engineering. Students must be nominated for the scholarship by a faculty representative.

“Rachel was successful partly because she started her formal research career early, has a double major and writes very well,” said Laure Pengelly Drake, director of external scholarships. “She is a wonderfully imaginative scientist and adept at helping the public to understand the larger societal implications of scientific research partly because she has been involved in the arts and activism. Each of her interests helps to open her mind to new questions and new ways of thinking and reporting results. Rachel’s work will have broad impact.”

“Teachers, classes and mentors at UM have expanded and challenged my personal viewpoints and goals,” Dickson said. “This scholarship will take my research in a new direction that I’m extremely excited about.”

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Photo: Rachel Dickson

Note to the media: UM President Royce Engstrom will recognize Dickson for her scholarship at 8:10 a.m. on Friday, April 10, in the North Underground Lecture Hall. Members of the media are invited to photograph and film. Meet Drake and Engstrom in front of University Hall Room 109 at 8 a.m. 

Contact: Laure Pengelly Drake, director of external scholarships and advising, UM Davidson Honors College, 406-243-6140, laure.pengellydrake@umontana.edu.