Auburn University senior named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar

Published: April 30, 2019
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Auburn University senior Drew Bonner is now a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, an honor bestowed on only 496 students nationwide. The scholarship is widely considered the most prestigious award in the United States for undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

Bonner, originally from Birmingham, is majoring in microbial biology in the College of Sciences and Mathematics and was chosen this April from a field of nearly 5,000 college students.

A member of the Honors College, Bonner has a myriad of undergraduate research projects on his resume. He began his research activities in high school with a project assessing DNA damage in cancer cells caused by radiation.

This exposure to research led to his next laboratory role with the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville. Bonner worked on a project to identify regions of the genome that may be related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Bonner has continued his research on Alzheimer’s disease while working with Professor Douglas Martin in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology and the Scott-Ritchey Research Center. Bonner’s main focus is studying how some of the proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease progression affect cellular mechanisms such as autophagy—a process which allows parts to remodel themselves—in neurons.

“I hope that any research that I perform will be useful in improving the health of those who suffer from debilitating diseases. The physical pain that many people with serious diseases go through on a daily basis is unimaginable to me. I believe that a career as a physician-scientist would be a great way to serve these people,” said Bonner.

While Bonner spends multiple hours in the lab, he finds time to participate in a variety of organizations on and off campus. As an undergraduate research ambassador for both the College of Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Agriculture, Bonner promotes and aids research involvement among undergraduate students. As an orientation leader for Auburn Global, Bonner spends his time with international students beginning their undergraduate or graduate education at Auburn. Bonner is also an officer with Alpha Epsilon Delta—the Health Pre-professional Honor Society—and an activity coordinator with Way2Serve Ministries.

 "We are proud of Drew, a member of the Honors College, who has combined academic excellence in the classroom with ingenuity in his research program,” noted Auburn Honors College Director Tiffany A. Sippial. “The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. We look forward to great things from Drew, and commend his faculty mentors for the pivotal role they have played in his success."

“Drew is unusually gifted academically, but he is set apart by the amount of research experience he has at such a young age,” said Martin. “He has done important, cutting-edge research at UAB, HudsonAlpha Institute and Auburn, and has published several scientific papers. Drew’s experience comes from his commitment to research and his innate aptitude for science. With his determination and intellect, he will make seminal contributions to whatever research field he chooses.”

 The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program was established to provide scholarships to outstanding students who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. Each scholarship covers eligible expenses up to a maximum of $7,500 annually for undergraduate tuition, fees, books and housing. In awarding scholarships, the foundation of trustees considers the nominee's field of study and career objectives along with the extent to which that individual has the commitment and potential to make a significant contribution to the field of science or engineering.

The National Prestigious Scholarship office at Auburn University, located in the Honors College, works closely with students to identify and help them pursue prestigious scholarships and other national and international awards through information sessions and one-on-one support during the application process.

(Written by Wade Berry, Auburn University)

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.