WSU students land national Goldwater scholarships

By Beverly Makhani, Office of Undergraduate Education

Goldwater-winnersPULLMAN, Wash. – Two Washington State University students won annual Barry M. Goldwater scholarships and one student received honorable mention. The merit-based awards, typically for $7,500, go to college sophomores and juniors in science, engineering and mathematics who intend to pursue a career in research.

WSU has had 24 Goldwater awardees and seven honorable mentions since 1990. The 2015 winners are:

Justin F. Niedermeyer, 22, a junior from Milton, Wash., who said he feels “compelled to better humankind by making scientific discoveries.” He is pursuing bachelors’ degrees in physics (he has researched ultracold quantum gases at WSU and in Germany), music (he sings baritone with the WSU Madrigal Singers and did with the Tacoma Opera), and German for the professions.

JustinNiedermeyerHis career will be as a principal investigator in a research group studying ultracold phenomena, which could be used for such things as lossless electric transmission lines and advanced medical imaging. He dreams of being on the international team of scientists that creates the first quantum computer.

Niedermeyer said he learned to be responsible and to value mathematics because he has had Type I diabetes since age 4. He composes music and has acted in amateur and professional theater productions since fifth grade.

Following a family tradition at WSU, he choose to live in historic Waller Hall as did his grandfather Darold (‘62 pharmacy), uncle Dennis (’84 business administration/management) and brother Brenden (‘12 business administration/MIS). He was elected the residence hall’s 79th Duke of Windsor; Brenden had that honor in 2010-11.

Seth M. Schneider, 20, a sophomore from Rochester, Wash., whose profession will be in national defense, researching at a government laboratory to develop methods to analyze biological threats. He is majoring in genetics and cell biology.

SethSchneiderHe joined the freshman-level Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Alliance (HHMI-SEA) biology lab in the WSU School of Molecular Biosciences. There, he successfully isolated and characterized a novel mycobacterio-phage and helped sequence and annotate the genome of two additional phages.

Schneider did research in WSU microbiologist Cynthia Haseltine’s lab, studying homologous recombination in the model archaeal organism Sulfolobus solfataricus. Currently, he is working with genomicist Kelly Brayton studying tick-borne pathogens/bacteria that infect animals.

He said he hopes to be a future leader in scientific research by being a great communicator and teacher. He is studying Chinese at WSU and hopes to get another distinguished scholarship to study in China soon. Beyond WSU, he is active in his church’s youth group and is always ready for a game of molly ball.

Angela R. Rocchi, 20, a sophomore from Elk, Wash., honorable mention. She is a future physician and research scientist who wants to create a treatment options for neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s that go beyond symptomatic relief. Her major is in neuroscience.

AngelaRocciShe calls herself a “nomad” because her father’s career took the family across the U.S. and she attended 12 schools in eight different school districts. While at Tahoma Senior High School, she joined a Microsoft Research team to work on a TouchDevelop mobile app.

Rocchi has researched in WSU biochemist Joseph Harding’s lab on uses of Dihexa, a drug used to treat neurodegenerative diseases and some cancers. She also has worked in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry, where she is clarifying important differences in the roles of proline residues in different ligand-gated ion channels.

She is proud of her family heritage. She is a third-generation Italian American and the third sister to attend WSU, following Beth (’13 education) and Danielle (’13 nursing).

The Goldwater Program was established by the U.S. Congress in 1986 to honor the five-term, Republican senator from Arizona. Each year, the WSU Office of Distinguished Scholarships informs and assists students in seeking awards to further their academic pursuits.

A wall in the CUB – the WSU Distinguished Scholars Gallery – celebrates students who have received the top federally funded awards, including the Rhodes, Fulbright, Goldwater, Boren, Udall and Gilman. More information is available at

All three students are members of the Honors College.


Sarah Ann Hones, WSU Distinguished Scholarships Program, 509-335-8239,
Mary Sánchez Lanier, WSU assistant vice provost, 509-335-2320,