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April 5, 2011

Michael Thompson ’12 Awarded Goldwater Scholarship

Michael Thompson '12

Civil engineering major Michael Thompson ’12 (Shokan, N.Y.) has achieved national distinction as the recipient of a Goldwater Scholarship. Awarded for academic merit, the Goldwater is the premier undergraduate award of its type in the fields of mathematics, science, and engineering.

Ross Moretti ’12 (Freehold, N.J.), a chemistry major, received honorable mention. Moretti plans to pursue a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. He would like to conduct research in synthetic organic chemistry and teach at the university level. He has performed EXCEL research with Jennifer Rutherford, assistant professor of chemistry, focusing on metal-catalyzed chemical reactions.

Thompson’s award will cover college costs up to a maximum of $7,500 next academic year. Earlier this school year, he was awarded an Environmental Protection Agency-Greater Research Opportunity fellowship, which provides funding for research supplies, tuition assistance, a stipend, and a three-month internship with the EPA this summer.

Thompson has performed a great deal of research on campus. He credits Lafayette’s undergraduate opportunities and one-on-one attention from faculty with helping him develop the research chops needed to secure both of his honors.

“It’s like nothing I ever imagined a small school could offer for a science-based program,” he says. “I believe I have received a better education and experience here than I could have at any technical institute.”

Working as an EXCEL Scholar with David Brandes and Art Kney, both associate professors of civil and environmental engineering, Thompson developed a graphical screening method that can predict the quality of stream water. A volunteer can test a water sample for hardness and electrical conductivity, then plot the results on the graph. The location of the plot point determines whether the water is clean or impacted. He presented the research at the 2010 World Environmental & Water Resources Congress, and they are preparing a paper for submission to the Journal of Environmental Management.

Brandes, Kney, and Thompson are also part of a large student-faculty initiative examining local flooding and water issues in partnership with the Nurture Nature Center of Easton. In addition to his water quality work, Thompson has been taking and studying core samples from the Bushkill Creek in Easton with Dru Germanoski, VanArtsdalen Professor and head of geology and environmental geosciences, and other students. This specific part of the project is studying the environmental implications of removing the dam on the creek near Third Street.

Thompson is a member of Lafayette’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders. For two weeks in the summer of 2009, he helped with EWB’s project to construct water distribution and filtration systems in the poor, rural villages of El Convento and La Fortuna, Honduras. Thompson is also a captain on the men’s track and field team and competes in the pole vault.

Established by Congress in 1986, the scholarship program honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. This year 275 scholarships were awarded for the 2011-12 academic year to undergraduate sophomores and juniors from the United States. The recipients were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,095 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.

See a list of recent Lafayette recipients of national and international scholarships and fellowships for undergraduate and post-graduate study. For information on applying for scholarships and fellowships, contact Julia A. Goldberg, associate dean of the College, (610) 330-5521.

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