Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

April 11, 2007

Third Whitworth Student in Five Years Selected as Goldwater Scholar

Whitworth junior Ben Spaun was selected from 1,110 top math, science and engineering students nationwide to receive a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for 2007-08. Spaun was among 317 Goldwater Scholars selected on the basis of academic merit to receive one- and two-year scholarships of up to $7,500 per year. Spaun's one-year award will help pay tuition for his senior year at Whitworth.

Spaun, a physics and math double major from Wenatchee, Wash., is the third Whitworth student in five years to receive the award. Among its peer institutions in the region – Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University, and Washington State University – Whitworth is the only institution from which students have been selected to receive the award in the last five years. Of the 317 scholarships awarded this year, six went to students attending institutions in Washington state: three at the University of Washington, and one each at Western Washington University, Seattle University, and Whitworth.

"Goldwater scholarships are extremely competitive," says Associate Professor of Physics and Department Chair Richard Stevens, who serves as the Goldwater faculty advisor. "Having Whitworth students selected three out of the past five years speaks strongly about the individual talents of the students, and reflects highly on the quality of the physics, chemistry, math and computer-science departments that have supported these students.

"Ben is one of the most respected physics students in the department, for his academic ability and for his cheerful good nature," Stevens says.

During summer '05, Spaun and Whitworth Assistant Professor of Physics Kamesh Sankaran conducted research on plasma rockets at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, Ala. During summer '06, Spaun conducted nuclear research at Duke University, in Durham, N.C. This summer, Spaun will complete a research project in condensed-matter physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. At Whitworth, Spaun competes on the track & field team and volunteers with En Christo, a student-led ministry to the homeless in downtown Spokane.

"My physics coursework at Whitworth has prepared me very well for my summer research," Spaun says. "I believe my Whitworth education in science and beyond played a huge role in me receiving the Goldwater Scholarship."

After graduating from Whitworth, Spaun plans to attend graduate school and earn a Ph.D. in experimental physics. His primary research interests include experimental nuclear physics and experimental plasma-propulsion physics. After completing graduate school, Spaun hopes to continue working as a research scientist and teach at a college or university.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in honor of former Senator Barry M. Goldwater (R-Arizona). The program is designed to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

Most Goldwater Scholars go on to doctoral programs, where they continue to receive prestigious scholarships and fellowships for their graduate study. Recent Goldwater Scholars have received 69 Rhodes Scholarships, 86 Marshall Awards, and numerous other distinguished fellowships and scholarships.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college, which has an enrollment of 2,500 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Richard Stevens, associate professor of physics and department chair, (509) 777-4508 or rstevens@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information officer, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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