Chase Holdener receives ’23 Goldwater Scholarship

April 04, 2022
Chase Holdener is named a Goldwater Scholar.

Chase Holdener ’23, was awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. The Goldwater Scholarship Program, one of the oldest and most prominent national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics in the United States, seeks to identify and support college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise to become this nation’s next generation of research leaders in their fields. This year, 417 new scholars were selected from a total of 1,242 nominees from colleges and universities around the country. 

Congress established the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation in 1986 as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The foundation has been able to support a larger number of scholarships in the past few years because of collaboration with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Program and additional support from Congress. Since the inception of the program, nearly 9,870 undergraduates have now been named Goldwater Scholars. 

Holdener, a biology and computer science double major from Gambier, Ohio, aims to enter a research-oriented career in computational plant science. This coming summer, Holdener will be working as a summer scholar at Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri. “Plant research has the power to inform changes needed to tackle many of the world’s current challenges,” shared Holdener. “I want to conduct research in plant science to improve the human condition—whether that involves increasing food security or renewing the environment.” Following his undergraduate education, he will pursue a PhD in computational biology. 

“Chase’s intellectual curiosity and academic and research achievements signify his excellent potential in achieving his PhD and research goals,” said Ann Landstrom, assistant dean and director of global fellowships and awards at Grinnell College. “The campus nomination committee recognized his ability to work at a high level within multiple disciplines with outstanding maturity, creativity, and resolve, while showing exceptional humility and generosity.” 

“I have had multiple research opportunities and amazing mentors that have shaped my desire to enter a research-oriented career and defined my direction toward computational plant biology,” said Holdener. As a high school student, he conducted microbiology research with Joan Slonczewski, professor of biology at Kenyon College. Then, in the midst of the pandemic in summer 2020, he worked with Judy Holdener, professor of mathematics at Kenyon College, sharpening his problem-solving and critical thinking skills with number theory research.  

At Grinnell College, Holdener held a summer 2021 position with Nicole Eikmeier, assistant professor of computer science, working on efficient graph generation research that has continued into the 2021–2022 academic year. “I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Nicole Eikmeier, who mentored my computer science research at Grinnell last summer and fall,” said Holdener. “I had her introductory computer science course during the fall of my first year at Grinnell, and she has been an advocate and an inspirational force ever since.” 

This spring semester 2022, he is also conducting cotton fiber elongation research with Ben DeRidder, associate professor of biology. Holdener’s other Grinnell College academic mentors include Vince Eckhart and Vida Praitis, both in biology, and Erick Leggans in chemistry. “I am deeply thankful for my talented Grinnell professors, who are amazing teachers and scholars. I am eager to see where my research takes me,” said Holdener. 

Holdener, a Grinnell College dean’s list recipient, is a community adviser in residential life and co-founder of plant club, while also participating in ultimate frisbee and swing dancing. In fall 2019, he trio-taught “Fun with Chemistry” to first and second grade students through the IGNITE community program. 

The Goldwater Scholarship provides financial assistance with undergraduate tuition and connects students with a network of fellow students, early career scientists, and experienced scholars. The Goldwater Foundation maintains an active community forum for discussions about STEM careers and graduate school opportunities. 

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