Goldwater Scholarship goes to Willamette chemistry student

Charlotte Osborne '11 plans to pursue a PhD in organic chemistry after she leaves Willamette University, but she didn't wait until graduate school to engage in scientific research.

She is only a junior, but she already spent a summer researching collaboratively with a Willamette professor, had an internship at Oregon Health & Science University and secured an upcoming summer research opportunity at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Osborne's successes in the classroom and the lab helped her earn a national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which provides up to $7,500 to outstanding students who plan to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.

"My lab experiences at Willamette, particularly through the Science Collaborative Research Program, helped me get my foot in the door for chemistry research," she says. "My mentor, Professor Andrew Duncan, helped me write my successful proposal for the Goldwater application."

The summer after her sophomore year, Osborne worked with Duncan and several other students through SCRP to synthesize organic molecules for a methods-based research project.

The prior year, a program she began in high school allowed her to intern at OHSU, studying neuronal expression in the hypothalamus in mice. The project sparked an interest in neuroscience, leading her to minor in psychology.

She heads to the Materials Research Lab at UC Santa Barbara this summer for a polymer chemistry research internship.

Along the way, Osborne also gained practical presentation experience as she discussed her work at the Pacific Northwest Undergraduate Research Symposium on Organic Chemistry and the Murdock Undergraduate Research Conference.

Osborne likens organic chemistry to "putting together the pieces in a puzzle," and through several Willamette programs, she is sharing her passion with the next generation.

As a Webber Scholar, a program that allows female science undergraduates to serve as role models to younger students, she teaches chemistry lessons to local fifth-graders. She also serves as the outreach coordinator for the Chemistry Club, which does scientific demonstrations at local schools.

"I love working with kids," she says. "I remember thinking how cool it was when I was young and learning a new scientific concept for the first time. Now I'm the scientist teaching them."

Osborne hopes to take her love for teaching to the college level and become a university professor, inspiring other scientists as her mentors did for her.

"Every professor I've had in the chemistry department has been top-notch. I came to a liberal arts college so I could have a greater chance of doing research and developing relationships with my professors. I appreciate their dedication to helping me succeed."

For more information on national scholarships for students, visit Student Academic Grants and Awards.