Biology and Biochemistry Double Major Honored with Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Research by Kathryn Powers ’17 ‘Has Been Able to Contribute Real Discovery’

​Hartford, Connecticut, April 29, 2016 – With competition from the top colleges in the nation, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship is one of the most prestigious awards for students who wish to pursue research in scientific fields. Adding her name to the list of winners is Kathryn Powers ’17.

Joanne Berger-Sweeney with Barry Goldwater Scholarship winner Kathryn Powers '17
Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Trinity College president and professor of neuroscience, with ​Barry Goldwater Scholarship recipient Kathryn Powers ’17.
Powers, a biology and biochemistry double major at Trinity College, works with Thomas S. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Biology Daniel Blackburn on biology research that she began through the Interdisciplinary Science Program. Her application essay for the scholarship highlighted the research she has conducted using scanning electron microscopy to study developmental anatomy of reptiles.

Powers has worked in Blackburn’s lab as a collaborative researcher for three years. Blackburn said that Powers is a mature and highly skilled researcher who has demonstrated the ability to carry out a challenging project from start to finish. “Kat quickly gained great skill in using highly sophisticated lab instrumentation, notably the Zeiss electron microscope that we acquired under a National Science Foundation grant,” Blackburn said of Powers’ work. “Through her use of this instrumentation she has made a significant set of discoveries that are certainly worthy of publication in the literature.”

The application process for the Goldwater Scholarship is rigorous, involving an internal nomination by the student’s college. Faculty nominate students to apply and then only four are finally selected by faculty at the student’s campus for consideration at the national level. At Trinity, Greg Convertito ’16 earned an honorable mention last year, and Hyunsu Cho ’15 and Lisa Yamada ’15 won in 2014.

Alison Draper, director of the Interdisciplinary Science Center and lecturer in interdisciplinary science at Trinity, attributes Powers’ success to her passion for her research and her drive to pursue it as a career. “Kat has been able to engage in research long term and has been able to contribute real discovery,” Draper said. She added that students who win this scholarship often go on to win Rhodes, Cambridge, or National Science Foundation graduate fellowships.

Beyond the scholarship, Blackburn said that Powers has made contributions that, with further research and investigation, could be groundbreaking in providing a basis for more discovery by Trinity students and researchers at other colleges. “Kat’s scientific observations have the potential to refute common assumptions in the embryological literature about developmental mechanisms and their evolution,” Blackburn said.

Powers plans to publish a scientific article describing her latest findings this summer. After graduation from Trinity, she plans on pursuing a Ph.D. “The Goldwater Scholarship will be very helpful applying to graduate school,” Powers said. Powers will present her work this summer at the International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology in Washington, D.C.

For more information on the Interdisciplinary Science Program, click here.

Written by Liz A. Boyhan ’18