Undergraduate Academic Affairs

March 31, 2020

Three UW students named Goldwater scholars for 2020

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Photo collage of Keyan Gootkin, Parker Ruth and Karen Zhang

Congratulations Keyan Gootkin, Parker Ruth and Karen Zhang, UW’s newest Goldwater Scholars.UW News

The Goldwater Foundation honored three University of Washington students this year with its undergraduate scholarship for students studying the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Undergraduates Keyan Gootkin, Parker Ruth and Karen Zhang were selected for the award from a pool of more than 5,000 undergraduate students from 461 institutions across the country.

Goldwater Scholarships are granted to sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise and plan to pursue research careers in math, engineering or the natural sciences. These scholarships award up to $7,500 a year to help cover costs associated with tuition, mandatory fees, books, room and board. For the 2020-21 academic year, 396 college students nationwide were selected for the competitive scholarship.

“I am delighted and inspired by this news,” says Undergraduate Academic Affairs Vice Provost and Dean Ed Taylor. “Supporting students on their journey through the UW helps our students to understand and improve the world we live in. Faculty of public research universities like the UW guide and mentor this next generation of researchers and scientists. With our support and their talent, our aim is to develop the scientific talent our world needs. I extend my warmest congratulations to Keyan, Parker and Karen as well as their faculty mentors and others who have supported them on their journeys so far.”

Keyan Gootkin

Portrait of Keyan GootkinKeyan Gootkin, an astronomy and physics double-major, studies “the universe’s most massive stars near the end of their lives.” In addition to his work as an undergraduate researcher, Gootkin actively brings the stars down to Earth through service: He serves as the student coordinator at the UW’s historical Theodor Jacobsen Observatory; co-chairs the Mobile Planetarium Committee; and is the outreach coordinator for the UW League of Astronomers.

Gootkin has received a Washington Research Foundation Fellowship, a Washington Space Grant scholarship, been named to the College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s List and is a Washington State Opportunity Scholar.

He plans to earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics “so that I can continue doing research as long as I can.”

Parker Ruth

Portrait of Parker RuthParker Ruth is earning a double degree in computer engineering and bioengineering; he is part of the Interdisciplinary Honors Program and is pursuing Departmental Honors. His research explores the design of computational tools to improve access to healthcare. As a member of the Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp) research lab advised by Professor Shwetak Patel, Ruth has contributed to the development and testing of mobile health applications for sleep apnea screening, cardiovascular health, osteoporosis detection and physical activity quantification.

Outside the classroom Ruth started a club to help students get involved with research in bioengineering-related fields. His additional honors and scholarships include a Levinson Emerging Scholars Award, Microsoft Endowment Scholarship, Washington Research Foundation Fellowship, Mary Gates Scholarships, and selections to the Dean’s List.

Ruth plans to obtain a Ph.D. in computer science, with a long-term goal of pursuing a career as a researcher using computers to improve people’s lives.

Karen Zhang

Portrait of Karen ZhangKaren Zhang is double-majoring in biochemistry and microbiology. She is part of the Interdisciplinary Honors program and is pursuing Departmental Honors in biochemistry. Zhang is also a Mary Gates Scholar and Annual Dean’s List awardee.

Currently, Zhang is an undergraduate researcher in the Molecular Information Systems Lab (MISL) at UW. Her lab investigates technologies for storing digital data in DNA and is interested in all things at the intersection between computer science and biology. Through this interdisciplinary lab, she has gained invaluable experience in professional research and discovered a passion for synthetic biology. She has also developed an appreciation for bioinformatics and the essential role that computational algorithms play in interpreting biological data.

Outside of academics and research, Zhang is an editor for the UW Microbiology Journal where she guides writers in developing informative and fascinating articles about topics in microbiology. In her free time, she enjoys reading (and maybe one day writing) fantasy novels.

After graduating from the UW, Zhang aims to obtain a Ph.D. in either synthetic biology/bioengineering or bioinformatics. She is “deeply passionate about studying the machineries of life at a molecular level and engineering them to perform novel tasks.”


This news item also appeared on the UW News blog.

About the Goldwater Foundation

Goldwater Foundation’s scholarship program honors Senator Barry Goldwater and encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

Learn more about scholarship opportunities at UW

The Goldwater Scholarship application process is supported by the Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards (OMSFA), a UAA program. OMSFA works with faculty, staff and students to identify and support promising students in developing the skills and personal insights necessary to become strong candidates for this and other prestigious awards.


For more information:

Kirsten Atik, communications director, Undergraduate Academic Affairs, at katik@uw.edu or 206-221-6130.

Robin Chang, director, Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards, robinc@uw.edu, 206-543-2603.