Jea Adams ’21 is among the newest recipients of a Goldwater Scholarship—considered the preeminent U.S. undergraduate award in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. Ryan McMillan ’20, who was awarded a Goldwater last year, has now won a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship. And Enoch Shin ’21 is among the newest recipients of a Beinecke Scholarship, which honors students in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Jea Adams ’21 

Jea Adams
Adams plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics as a preface for postdoctoral research and an eventual career as a professor. Her scholarly interest is in characterizing and detecting exoplanets and the stars they orbit, she says.

“In what is swiftly becoming one of the most exciting astrophysical fields today, my goal is to contribute as much as I can to the search for these new worlds,” Adams wrote in her Goldwater application.

Since the summer after her first year at Amherst, she has been engaged in astronomical research with Kate Follette, assistant professor of astronomy, who has attracted attention for her work in studying young exoplanets.

Adams, in her application, wrote that in her native Guyana “the skies drove the vast majority of my people’s understanding of the world.” After becoming obsessed with her grandfather’s astronomy books, however, she discovered that the teaching of astronomy was virtually nonexistent in her area, and so she felt that a career as an astronomer would be impossible.

Follette “was the first astrophysicist I’d ever met, changing my trajectory by showing me what could be my reality,” Adams wrote.

Last summer, with an award from the National Science Foundation, she was part of a team at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, working on radio observations of star-forming regions. That work has resulted in an upcoming paper for The Astrophysical Journal.

“Jea is a remarkable student and person,” says Follette. “She’s a force of nature.”

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1986. The program awards undergraduate scholarships annually on the basis of merit to sophomores and juniors who have outstanding potential and intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering. Each scholarship covers eligible expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board, up to $7,500 annually. Over 9,000 undergraduates have now been named Goldwater Scholars since the program’s inception.

The Goldwater Scholarship Foundation named 396 scholars this year. For the 2020 competition, 461 institutions nominated 1,343 undergraduates.

Amherst’s most recent Goldwater Scholar was Ryan McMillan ’20 in 2019.

Ryan McMillan ’20

Ryan McMillan
Ryan McMillan ’20, a 2019 Goldwater Scholar, has won a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship to aid his work in molecular genetics.

“This is extremely rare for an undergraduate,” says Kannan Jagannathan, the Bruce B. Benson '43 and Lucy Wilson Benson professor of physics. 

McMillan conducted physics thesis research in the lab of Associate Professor of Physics Ashley Carter, and he’s slated to attend Harvard for graduate school. He branched off from the lab’s work, which looks at how DNA folds inside of sperm cells, to figure out ways to mimic this folding in engineered DNA structures. “These folded DNA structures could be used to deliver drugs in targeted therapies,” Carter says.

Amherst’s most recent NSF fellow is Trevor Wright ’18, who received a 2019 award for his graduate work in physics at Yale.

Enoch Shin ’21 

Enoch Shin
Shin plans to use his Beinecke Scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in history.

In his application, Shin described growing up as a Korean-American in a largely white suburb of Anaheim, Calif., and making frequent day trips to Los Angeles’ Koreatown neighborhood. In graduate school, he hopes to research “the broader narratives surrounding interracial neighborhoods in 20th-century urban America.”

His longterm goal: to become a scholar who “can guide wider audiences towards topics that are uncomfortable and challenging.” He credits his Amherst education, including such classes as “Queer Theory and Practice,” with encouraging this interest in looking at history through a broad lens.

Beinecke Scholarships support pursuit of a research-based master's or doctoral degree anywhere in the world in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Shin was among 102 candidates selected this year. 

Each scholar receives $4,000 just before entering graduate school and an additional $30,000 while attending graduate school. Recipients may supplement the award with other scholarships, assistantships and research grants.

Amherst’s most recent Beinecke Scholar was Yvonne Green ’17 in 2016.