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University Honors Sophomore Awarded Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

| Ian McCormack

Congratulations to Tyler Gonzales, University Honors student and Mathematics major, recipient of 2019’s prestigious Goldwater Scholarship!

Established by former US Senator Barry Goldwater, the Goldwater Foundation awards scholarships to prominent students pursuing a career in “natural sciences, mathematics and engineering,” who demonstrate excellence in academics and “potential for a significant future contribution to research.”

Tyler was one of 62 students in mathematics and computer science students selected from an estimated pool of 5,000 applicants nationwide. In total, 496 students including Tyler were awarded nationally, with 6 from Wisconsin.

Growing up in Eagan, Minnesota, Tyler “did a lot of everything,” but enjoyed being outside. In high school, he sang in choir, competed on the bike racing team, and began to expand his interests in mathematics through the assistance and encouragement of teachers and mentors.

When considering college options, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire stood out due to its outstanding Mathematics department and dedication to providing undergraduate research opportunities. He enrolled in the fall of 2017 as an Honors student and Blugold Fellow.

Tyler Gonzales at CERCA 2018
Tyler Gonzales presents at 2018's Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity (CERCA).

Through his fellowship, Tyler was off to a running start. As a freshman, he partnered with Dr. Michael Penkava and Dr. Sam Scholze of the Mathematics department, researching non-commutative geometry, deformations of algebras, functional analysis, and frame theory.

Tyler admits that, “at first, I was very overwhelmed; I felt like I had to understand everything.”

Undergraduate research was considerably more difficult than he had thought, but through the advice and mentorship of Dr. Penkava, he found his place: “When you have an advisor that helps you and pushes you, it helps you get the most out of it.” This holds true in his varied experiences; he has travelled across the country to multiple research conferences in locations such as Baltimore and San Diego.

Tyler didn’t know he was nominated for the Goldwater scholarship until one of his professors told him that Dr. Alex Smith, the Department Chair, had submitted his name.

Tyler Gonzales at JMM national conference in mathematics
Tyler Gonzales presents at the Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM) conference in Baltimore, MD on January 26th, 2019

After meeting with Karen Havholm, the Assistance Vice-Chancellor, Tyler began the arduous Goldwater application process. It took the entirety of his fall semester for Tyler to finish, submitting more letters of recommendation than he could count and finishing four separate essays.

Tyler found out he had received the award on a spring morning before class.  Checking his email, he was filled with excitement at the possibilities the Goldwater could bring: “I didn’t realize how big the scholarship was until I got one. I didn’t think I was going to get one.”

Next, Tyler plans to apply to Oxford for graduate school to continue pursuing his passion for exploration at the forefront of mathematics. “I want to get a Ph.D.; that’s the endgame for me, the goal. Getting these big national scholarships and getting attention like that will definitely be able to open doors for me.”