Chemistry major and aspiring oceanographer Emma Kocik ‘22 has been selected as a 2021 Barry Goldwater Scholar, the most prestigious scholarship given to undergraduate students in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. The award will help cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, room and board for Kocik’s senior year at Chapman University.
This is the second year in a row that a Chapman student has received a Goldwater Scholarship. Biochemistry and molecular biology student Edena Khoshaba ‘21 was the first Chapman student to receive the award a year ago.
Applications for High-Profile Scholarships on the Rise
“In the past five years, Chapman has seen a tremendous increase, almost tripling prior years, in student applications for external prestigious scholarships and fellowships. But more noteworthy than the increase in the quantity of applications is the quality of our students’ applications,” noted Julye Bidmead, Ph.D., director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence at Chapman.
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is highly selective; colleges and universities are allowed to nominate only four students a year. Kocik is one of 410 U.S. college students to receive the award this year.
Since 2019, when Chapman achieved R2 status as a High Research Activity university, undergraduate research opportunities have continued to grow in the sciences and across the disciplines. These opportunities give Chapman students a competitive edge when applying for scholarships and to graduate programs, Bidmead said.
Investigating Climate Change Impact in the Arctic Ocean
Following the completion of her bachelor’s degree, Kocik plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography. Her goal is to become a professor at a research university investigating the impacts of climate change on biogeochemical cycling in the Arctic Ocean.
A career in research was not in Kocik’s plans when she started college. Kocik transferred to Chapman midway through her freshman year at another university.
“As someone who had no clue what I wanted to study, I really struggled with the large class sizes and lack of mentorship to help me find my path at my previous institution,” Kocik said. “Chapman ended up being my perfect fit.”
In her first semester at Chapman, Kocik discovered her passion for marine ecosystem research working with Warren de Bruyn, Ph.D., professor of chemistry in Chapman’s Schmid College of Science and Technology. Their project is developing a novel method for oil detection in natural aquatic settings.
Realizing Her Potential Thanks to Undergraduate Research
Kocik also gained research experience performing lab experiments for the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) during summer 2020. Elaine Schwartz, Ph.D., associate professor and assistant dean of Schmid College, was instrumental in Kocik landing the position, which increased her interest in marine research, the student said. After the summer, Kocik was hired as a laboratory assistant.
“When I didn’t see potential in myself, I always had mentors in my life who saw potential in me,” Kocik said.
In addition to Schwartz, de Bruyn and Aaron Harrison, postdoctoral fellow in the Grand Challenges Initiative, Kocik expressed thanks to Schmid professors Christopher Kim and Jason Keller as well as lecturer Megan Schneider for support with her application.
Learn more about Schmid’s BS in Chemistry program.