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UW-Eau Claire student wins prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: Third-year student Devin Sobottka is one of only six students selected for the Goldwater Scholarship this year from a Universities of Wisconsin campus.

Devin Sobottka spent seven years working in warehouses while trying to find the right job fit for his associate degree in information technology networking. When the pandemic hit, Sobottka reevaluated his career and decided to pursue his true passion ­— chemistry — at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Sobottka’s decision to return to UW-Eau Claire where he was enrolled a decade earlier proved to be golden. Sobottka’s career path trajectory rose dramatically when he was named a 2024 recipient of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

Devin Sobottka

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation provides $7,500 scholarships to second- and third-year college students who plan to pursue research careers in natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. A total of 438 college students from across the country are recipients of the Goldwater scholarships for 2024 after 1,353 undergraduates were nominated by 446 institutions.

“This prestigious award recognizes a student’s potential for becoming a future research leader in the United States,” says Dr. Michael Carney, interim provost. “Devin joins an elite group and is one of only six students selected this year from a Universities of Wisconsin campus. It’s a wonderful honor and we’re so proud of Devin for this recognition.”

Sobottka, a third-year student from Knapp majoring in chemistry with a biochemistry emphasis, says it’s an honor to receive the Goldwater Scholarship, which may help “open the door for more opportunities and ways I can achieve my educational and career goals.”

“The most important thing UW-Eau Claire has done for me has been providing me with a wonderful research mentor and the ability to conduct undergraduate research,” Sobottka says. “I'm learning skills that would be a lot harder to obtain somewhere else.”

Devin Sobottka

Sobottka is a hard-working student who is passionate about scientific research, says Sobottka’s faculty research mentor, Dr. Tyler Doyon, assistant professor in chemistry and biochemistry.

Doyon’s research group works in the field of chemistry called biocatalysis, using enzymes to perform organic chemistry reactions.

Sobottka’s work has focused on optimizing the performance of an enzyme and isolating the products that are made by the enzyme. Sobottka has made significant contributions to the research that will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal with the student as the co-first author, Doyon says.

Devin Sobottka

“This is an incredible accomplishment and is only possible because of Devin’s dedication and scientific curiosity,” Doyon says. “Furthermore, he is a fantastic mentor to other students through tutoring and involvement in department activities.”

Doyon is excited to see what Sobottka’s future brings as his UW-Eau Claire research experience has prepared him for success in graduate school, where he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry, and beyond.

The Goldwater Scholarship Program was established by Congress in 1986 “to serve as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years on the U.S. Senate.” The scholarship program is one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the country and intended to support students who “show exceptional promise of becoming this Nation’s next generation of research leaders in these fields.”