CSU students Kaydee Barker (left) and Hunter Ogg are recipients of the 2021 Goldwater Scholarship Award, a program designed to provide opportunities for outstanding U.S. students in STEM.
Two Colorado State University undergraduates are being honored by one of the country’s top scholarship programs in natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.
Kaydee Barker in the Warner College of Natural Resources and Hunter Ogg in the College of Natural Sciences each received a Goldwater Scholarship Award from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. The students were among the 410 sophomores and juniors selected from an estimated total pool of more than 5,000 in the annual competition.
The Goldwater Foundation this year awarded scholarships to seven scholars from four Colorado institutions: CSU, the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado College and the Colorado School of Mines. Over the past three years, CSU has had the most Goldwater Scholars in the state with a total of eight.
A selection committee of faculty through the Office for Scholarship and Fellowship Advising nominated the students at CSU.
Warner College of Natural Resources
Honors Program Student
Major: Ecosystem Science and Sustainability
Hometown: Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Before coming to CSU, Kaydee Barker was traveling the world with her husband as a writer and business consultant, witnessing the impact of climate change on communities.
“We saw towns dried up and abandoned from lack of water. We saw rampant wildfires eat up hundreds of thousands of acres of forest and agriculture,” she said. “Internationally, we met farmers whose crops were lost to excessive winds, rain, UV exposure, or diseases that thrive in the changing conditions. We met people who lost their homes to tropical storms and hurricanes. We saw, everywhere, people struggling to adjust and survive in the midst of an unstable climate.”
The experience brought Barker, at the age of 28, to CSU, where she is studying ecosystem science and sustainability as well as soil science. Barker said she is learning the mechanics of ecosystem and soil processes and gaining valuable research experience in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory.
For Barker, being named a Goldwater Scholar was humbling and encouraging as she continues to pursue her dream of getting a Ph.D. in ecology to further examine nutrient cycling — the movement and exchange of nutrients within and between living and non-living pools.
“I’m a first-generation student and an adult learner that came to school again at the age of 28,” she said. “This all seems like a dream sometimes.”
Barker said CSU has played an important role in connecting her with other people of similar interests. She said people like Kaye Holman, academic success/internship coordinator at the Warner College, helped her build community through clubs such as the Society of Women Environmental Professionals; Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity, and Sustainability; and the Wildlife Society.
Those connections assisted Barker with her research, which has included examining plant-soil and plant-fungal interactions and their impact on the formation of stable soil organic carbon pools.
“I know I’m joined by all of Warner College in our pride in Kaydee’s amazing accomplishments. Her passion exemplifies the Warner Ram spirit through her drive to succeed in finding scientific solutions to the significant environmental challenges causing harm around the world.”
— John P. Hayes, dean, Warner College of Natural Resources
As she heads into her final year, Barker said the road to CSU took years of work and travel to discover her purpose and gain the courage to pursue a degree in science. She said she would have not been able to do it without the Cotrufo Lab and the mentorship of Professor Francesca Cotrufo, post-doc researcher Bethany Avera, and research fellow Katie Rocci.
“In many ways, my deep sense of responsibility for others,” she said, “my upbringing in hard work and self-sufficiency, and my membership in a community that faced economic inequity have motivated me and given me strength to dream of and pursue a future in which we all can thrive, and the environment too.”
College of Natural Sciences
Honors Program Student
Major: Biochemistry and Data Science
Hometown: Loveland, Colorado
Hunter Ogg’s passion for biotechnology started in high school after a classroom experiment that involved genetically modifying a non-hazardous strain of E. coli bacteria by inserting a fluorescent protein gene into its DNA.
“Children like me with no knowledge of genetics are able to make modifications to the genome that were unthinkable even a generation ago,” he said. “Today, my research is focused on modifying cells for fluorescent imaging. Even so, familiarity and understanding of the topic has not diminished my wonder.”
With aspirations of becoming a researcher and teaching professor with an emphasis on computational methods in biochemistry, Ogg said the Goldwater Scholarship will allow him to focus on his research and academic pursuits and continue the process of training young scientists.
“It’s recognition that I can contribute something to the scientific community,” he said. “We have people willing to invest in the future generation of scientists, which is incredibly important. All that work and dedication people are willing to put into people like myself is inspiring.”
In the College of Natural Sciences, Ogg serves as the president of the Biochemistry Student Association and the CNS College Council. The sophomore said the Department of Biochemistry has provided him with excellent research opportunities.
“I, and the College of Natural Sciences, want to congratulate Hunter on this amazing achievement. Biotechnology is a growing and profoundly important field, and with Hunter’s passion and drive in this area we know that he will make significant contributions throughout his career.”
— Jan Nerger, dean, College of Natural Sciences
The research skills he has developed include plasmid design, cloning scheme design, imaging on a confocal microscope, image processing and analysis and maintenance of mammalian cell lines.
Ogg said being named a Goldwater Scholar was the culmination of the support from family, friends and teachers such as his high school science teacher Colleen Torres as well as Assistant Professor Tim Stasevich and postdoctoral researcher Ning Zhao.
“I wouldn’t be here without them,” he said. “They all gave me a lot of time. This opportunity is reflective of being given a lot of help and support from a lot of people. It’s not just my own efforts.”
Goldwater Scholarship Program
Established by Congress in 1986, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation operates an educational scholarship program designed to provide opportunities for outstanding U.S. students with excellent academic records and demonstrated interest in, and potential for, research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.
The scholarship award covers eligible expenses up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Scholarship recipients nominated as sophomores can expect to receive a maximum of two years of support.
Current CSU freshmen and sophomores interested in applying for a Goldwater Scholarship can contact Mary Swanson, program director of the Office for Scholarship and Fellowship Advising, at email@example.com.