In a nationwide competition, two Drew students win prestigious scholarships

Robert Scheffler

Sophomore Robert Scheffler’s interest in science intensified the summer before his freshman year, when he got his first opportunity for independent research as an associate in Drew’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute program. When he joined a team studying the bacterium that causes cholera, there was no turning back. “Once I got into the lab, I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” Scheffler says. “It really engaged my mind and allowed me to do a lot of thinking.”

All that thinking paid off. Scheffler, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, is one of two Drew students among 282 nationwide to receive 2012-2013 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, the premiere scholarship for undergraduates majoring in math, science and engineering. The other winner from Drew is Gregory Hunt, a junior majoring in mathematics and computer science. Chemistry major Timothy Barnum, a junior, won an honorable mention.

At Drew, Scheffler has continued to research the cholera bacterium. “I can’t get enough of working in the lab,” he says. A Baldwin Honors Scholar and Drew Civic Scholar, he plays the oboe in Drew’s Wind Ensemble and University Orchestra and is active in a multitude of clubs and societies, including the Drew Organization of Gaming.

Gregory Hunt

Hunt, who aims to devise new methods of statistical analysis for the massive datasets generated by computing power, says he gravitated toward math because of the mental challenge. “It can be frustrating. It can be hard. But it’s fun figuring things out,” he says. “And it’s very beautiful—you can find very deep connections among different parts of mathematics. ”

Hunt’s current research project involves statistics. “If we are not to waste the gold mine of information that may be summoned simply through a few keystrokes,” he wrote on his scholarship application, “we need statistical innovation.”

Goldwater Scholars, selected for their academic merit, are expected to pursue Ph.Ds. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Universities may nominate four undergraduates for the award, and Drew nominated three, according to scholarship coordinator Louis Hamilton. “All three were recognized, which shows that, pound for pound, we have the best science program in the state,” he says. “Only Princeton outperformed Drew this year, with two scholarship winners and two honorable mentions. We’re a small program, but we punch above our weight.” —Mary Jo Patterson