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Physics student receives prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

April 23, 2013
Thomas Nevins
Thomas Nevins

EAU CLAIRE — A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student has received a prestigious scholarship for students pursuing careers in science, mathematics or engineering.

Thomas Nevins, a junior physics major and Honors Program participant from Chippewa Falls, has been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, one of only eight awarded in Wisconsin.

"I'd have to say I feel relieved, surprised and honored to receive the scholarship all at the same time," Nevins said. "It really helps justify the past three years of undergraduate research. Getting the scholarship also tells me that people out there think my current research is important enough to support and my past research is good enough to show that I know what I'm doing."

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater. The goal is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.

Students who receive Goldwater Scholarships must have strong academic qualifications, in-depth research experience and a commitment to a career in science.

Dr. Paul Thomas, professor of physics and astronomy, was one of the professors who recommended Nevins for the scholarship.

"Thomas is one of the very brightest students I've worked with in my 25 years at UW-Eau Claire," he said. "He has a very strong understanding of mathematics and physics, and a quick insight that allows us to discuss research problems very easily and naturally. I think that he could work in any field of physics that he wished."

Nevins said that he owes his scholarship success not only to his various research experiences, but also to those who have supported him over the years.

"There are my recommenders, Dr. Paul Thomas and Dr. Thomas Lockhart from here in the physics department and Dr. Wei Jiang Yeh from the University of Idaho (who was my adviser last summer); but there is also the rest of the physics department at UW-Eau Claire," he said. "In class they are incredible educators, and outside of class they go out of their way to help students succeed. Really it is the physics department's advice and guidance over the years that made me qualified for this scholarship, along with a few other professors from around the university and Dr. Karen Havholm, assistant vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs."

During his scholarship year, Nevins will continue current work with Thomas on development of a computer model of how satellite debris orbiting earth behaves upon collision, with the ultimate goal of being able to recover satellite parts.

Last summer, Nevins was selected for an internship position in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. While spending nine weeks at the University of Idaho, he worked on the project "Nanoporous Materials for Sensor Applications."

Nevins' research with Dr. Thomas Lockhart was presented at UW-Eau Claire's annual Student Research Day, and in 2012 his poster on "Formation of Antibubbles in Oil Systems" received an award.

After graduating, Nevins plans to pursue a doctorate in experimental physics and then conduct research in physics at a national laboratory.

Goldwater Scholars receive scholarships that cover the cost of undergraduate tuition, fees, and room and board up to $7,500 for one or two years.

The UW-Eau Claire Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and the College of Arts and Sciences coordinated the nominations at the suggestion of the provost.

For more information, contact Dr. Karen Havholm at or 715-836-3405.



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