Four CSU students named Goldwater Scholars

Colorado State Goldwater Scholars
CSU students Dillon Donaghy (left), Amanda Merkley, Seamus Somerstep and Mikaela Elder were named Goldwater Scholars by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

Four Colorado State University undergraduates have been named scholars in the annual Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Competition, the most selected at any university in Colorado.

The students – Dillon Donaghy, Mikaela Elder, Amanda Merkley and Seamus Somerstep – received the prestigious honor from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. They were nominated by a selection committee of CSU faculty through the Office for Scholarship and Fellowship Advising.

The Goldwater Foundation named a total of seven scholars from three Colorado universities, with four from CSU, two from the University of Colorado Boulder and one from the University of Colorado Denver.

The national scholarship program, honoring the late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, was established to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering.

Apply to be a Goldwater Scholar




Current CSU freshmen and sophomores interested in applying for a Goldwater Scholarship can contact Mary Swanson at

Since 2008, 11 CSU students have been named Goldwater Scholars. This year, all four nominees received the honor, a first for the university.

“To be named a Goldwater Scholar is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Mary Swanson, associate director of the Office for Scholarship and Fellowship Advising and the Office for Undergraduate Research and Artistry. “To have all four of our nominees receive scholarships is a testament to the strength of our undergraduate research programs.”

Goldwater Scholars 2019

Dillon Donaghy

Dillon Donaghy, a junior in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has been researching blood coagulation in dogs with Christine Olver, a professor of clinical pathology. In particular, the two have been examining how certain diseases affect blood clotting in canines and looking at affordable treatment options.

Down the road, Donaghy, from Wiggins, Colorado, wants to attain a Ph.D. in immunology or a related field and become a research faculty member at a university.

“It’s really a great honor,” Donaghy said. “It’s a culmination of all the work I’ve done the last three years in the lab and all the work I’ve done to get where I am. I just want to give a big thank you to Dr. Olver for all of her help.”

Amanda Merkley

Amanda Merkley, a senior in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, has been researching statistical methods in the manufacturing process of carbon nanotube circuits, which can be used in computers and other technologies. Her research with faculty served as a basis for a paper she presented at an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference in India.

“What I really like about this project is taking the theoretical aspect of mathematics and probability and applying it to circuits,” said Merkley, who wants to earn her Ph.D. in electrical engineering and conduct research in wireless communications systems at a national lab.

Merkley, from Logan, Utah, also has experience researching methods in computational geometry in the Department of Mathematics through CSU’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program, a National Science Foundation initiative that supports research by undergraduate students.

Seamus Somerstep

Seamus Somerstep, a senior in the College of Natural Sciences, has been researching number theory problems relating to cryptography. With Professor Rachel Pries in the Department of Mathematics, he has worked on a problem that is of interest to people working in cryptography.

Somerstep is from Fort Collins and plans to get a Ph.D. in mathematics so he can continue to conduct research in number theory. He said he likes the problem-solving aspects of mathematics and how it connects to physics. He said the Goldwater Scholarship will allow him to continue his with his research passions.

“It obviously means a lot to be recognized for the research that I’ve done,” Somerstep said. “It feels really special. I appreciate Dr. Pries finding funding and a research project for me to receive this honor.”

Mikaela Elder

Mikaela Elder, a senior in the College of Natural Sciences, has conducted research involving proteins in relation to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Elder, who is from Fort Collins, plans to get a Ph.D. in computational biology or computational medicine, said she is honored to be among the candidates to receive a Goldwater Scholarship. She is currently working on a bioinformatics project as well as a statistics research project involving methane gas at landfills.

“My research experience at CSU has shown me that research is my life’s calling,” Elder said. “I really enjoy the research process. I feel really fortunate to be at a place that prepares students to be amongst the best in the country.”