Each year students from across the country are recognized as future pioneers in the fields of natural science, mathematics and engineering through the Barry Goldwater Scholarship Fund.
This year, for the second straight year, a UNO student has been selected as Nebraska’s lone Goldwater Scholar with sophomore Sarah Alsuleiman, a double major in biology and chemistry, being one of just 410 students recognized. With the recognition, Alsuleiman also becomes the fifth Maverick in history to do so.
"My heart dropped when I saw the email," Alsuleiman said. "I got emotional very quickly and called my mother. I never expected to be selected as a Goldwater Scholar, but I applied regardless because I was inspired by previous UNO students who were selected in the past years."
The selection was a no brainer for Paul Davis, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and the director of the Molecular Parasitology Lab in which Alsueiman is an undergraduate student researcher. Not surprisingly, four of UNO's last five Goldwater Scholars have been mentored by Davis.
“One of the most notable aspects of Sarah is her attitude towards discovery,” he said. “She is awe-struck when she learns about aspects of biology that are unusual, and it gives her great satisfaction to learn about intricate systems—far more enthusiasm than perhaps any undergraduate I have worked with.”
The daughter of Syrian immigrants, Alsuleiman is deeply involved in academics, research, and community engagement. She is a mentor with NE STEM 4U, which provides after-school STEM activities for K-12 students in the Omaha Public Schools; is a volunteer at the University of Nebraska Medical Center; she is an INBRE Scholar as well as a UNO ADEPT (Applied Defense Education Pipeline and Training) where she does infectious disease research and explores areas of biodefense; and she is a member of the UNO University Honors Program.
“Sarah is an Honors student in every way—thirsty for knowledge and for classes and activities that stretch her intellectually,” Lucy Morrison, Ph.D., director of the UNO University Honors Program, said. “She has demonstrated grit and perseverance on her journey here at UNO and worked hard on crafting the best application she could for this national scholarship. Students are not always willing to revise and reconfigure—but Sarah is.”
Alsuleiman hopes to one day research diseases such as HIV/AIDS to bring relief to people suffering with those conditions at home and abroad.
"Political chaos in Syria has shaped my identity in the sense that I am more passionate and motivated to help people, recognizing the privilege I have as an American with access to excellent education and resources," Alsuleiman said.
With the scholarship, Alsuleiman will have her tuition covered through the rest of her undergraduate career. Previously, she said, she had been paying tuition through loans. She says she couldn't have gotten this far without the support she's had from her peers and mentors at UNO.
"UNO has provided me with opportunities I never imagined having," she said. "The INBRE program, FUSE funding opportunities, and RCAF for showcasing research are only some of the amazing opportunities UNO offers that have helped me become a better student and researcher.
"I would like to give special thanks to my research mentor Dr. Davis who offered me tremendous support that propelled my academic career forward, and his research lab where the sky is the limit not only for scientific investigation and achievement but also personal growth. I would also like to thank Dr. Morrison with her help reviewing my Goldwater application many times and guiding me as a student outside of this application. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Richter-Egger, Dr. Rogers, and Mr. Rolf who also assisted me with my application and supported me as a student."
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship Fund was launched in 1986 and has awarded nearly 9500 scholarships to students across the country. The program honors the late Senator Barry Goldwater as a way to encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics.
Students interested in applying for the Goldwater Scholarship, or similar national scholarship opportunities, should contact the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships at UNOonsf@unomaha.edu.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.