Neldner ’20 Earns Goldwater Scholarship

May 29, 2019

By Luke Woodling ’17MBA

Lauren Neldner in an acoustic room holding cables.
Lauren Neldner ’20Photo by Scott Cook.

Lauren Neldner ’20 has earned a Goldwater Scholarship, the preeminent undergraduate award in the fields of mathematics, engineering, and the natural sciences.

Lauren Neldner ’20 has earned a 2019 Goldwater Scholarship, the country’s most prestigious undergraduate science scholarship.

The award, which was established by Congress in honor of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, is given to sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, engineering, and the natural sciences. It covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Neldner, a physics major from Oviedo, Florida, plans to pursue a PhD in either geophysics or structural engineering after graduating from Rollins.

“I want to do a mix of seismology and earthquake engineering,” says Neldner. “I want to study how earthquakes propagate so that we can better predict them and provide early warning systems as well as make buildings and structures more stable so that there are fewer casualties.”

Neldner based her Goldwater essay on her experience last summer in the prestigious IRIS Internship Program, a paid seismology research program funded by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates initiative.

She spent the first week of the 10-week program in New Mexico, studying seismology and geology while conducting fieldwork. Neldner spent the final nine weeks at Brown University working on her own research project, which was focused on using ambient noise caused by ocean waves to learn more about the Earth’s crust and upper mantle under Alaska.

Lauren Neldner and professor Thom Moore in a classroom lab discussing a project.
Neldner began conducting research alongside physics professor Thom Moore after her first semester at Rollins.Photo by Scott Cook.

Neldner felt right at home in the Ivy League lab, thanks to her extensive experience in Rollins’ Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program. In fact, she began conducting research alongside physics professor Thom Moore at the start of the spring semester of her first year at Rollins. By the end of that summer, she had already presented at a pair of professional conferences and published a research paper.

As a result, Neldner entered the IRIS program with more research and lab experience than the bulk of her cohort—even though most of the other participants were a year ahead of her. She credits her uncommonly early research opportunities and Moore’s rigorous standards for giving her a leg up even among a collection of the country’s top science students.

“Dr. Moore sets a very high bar for us,” says Neldner. “He’s very old school—everything has to be done a certain way, and it must surpass his expectations. But he’s always sure to remind me that ‘I know you can accomplish this because I’ve believed in you since your first year.’”

Students wearing caps and gowns walk to a commencement ceremony on Rollins College’s campus.

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