Colorado State University engineering major wins Goldwater Scholarship

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Melissa Wirtz, an electrical engineering major at Colorado State University, has been named a 2014 recipient of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

Wirtz was one of 283 undergraduate students from across the country selected for the Goldwater Scholarship, which provides up to $7,500 per year for the final one or two years of study. She is the 15th CSU student to be named a Goldwater Scholar.

Emily Robitschek, a sophomore biochemistry and anthropology major, received an honorable mention.

Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to outstanding students pursuing careers in science, mathematics and engineering. The awards are extremely competitive – more than 1,166 students were nominated by professors and faculty from U.S. colleges and universities.

Wirtz plans to pursue her doctorate then work at a national laboratory and conduct research on renewable energy or defense projects.

She first conducted research as a high school student in Corrales, N.M. In 2010, Wirtz was selected as a high school fellow by Sandia National Laboratory where she helped create new chemical compounds. Her mentor, Richard Kemp, has asked her to return to his lab every summer since.

Last summer, Wirtz also completed an internship at the International Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University in Chicago. There, she devised a method for measuring the motion of nanomechanical resonators using a device known as the atomic force monitor.

“Few undergraduates can boast as sustained and impressive a research record as (Wirtz),” said Mary Swanson, the Nationally Competitive Scholarship Advisor at CSU.

Robitschek also has a strong research record.

The Arvada, Colo., native has worked in three labs on campus and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology and molecular genetics. Her goal is to develop new, more affordable drug treatments for infectious diseases such as multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

“(Robitschek) is an outstanding student and an emerging leader in the fields of biochemistry and microbiology,” Swanson said.