Two University of Michigan students have been awarded the 2023 Goldwater Scholarship: Thomas Chen and Minki Lee! Thomas and Minki received two of the 413 Goldwater Scholarships awarded this year. The Goldwater Scholarship is considered the most prestigious award undergraduate students in STEM can receive.

The Goldwater Scholarship was established in 1986 to provide support for highly qualified STEM students who plan to pursue a PhD and research career in these fields. It provides $7,500 to Scholars in support of their junior and/or senior year of undergraduate study.


Thomas Chen (Microbiology)

Thomas is a junior majoring in Honors Microbiology with a minor in Oceanography. He has been a Research Assistant in the Laboratory of Kathleen L. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. since his freshman year. He plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in immunology with a research focus on host-microbe interactions. Thomas aims to become a physician-scientist pursuing novel translational research and advocating for equitable patient care. 

He applied for the award to bring recognition to all of his incredible mentors who were instrumental in his journey, stating, “This award is a direct result of their unwavering belief in me and selfless investment of their time and effort in my growth…I am incredibly proud of my work in HIV and HPV and I want to raise public awareness to diseases affecting underserved communities.”

When asked how working with ONSF transformed his future plans, Thomas noted the application process allowed him to reflect on his undergraduate research experience at Michigan and set new goals for the future. His advice to future applicants: Celebrate your authentic self by telling your story loudly and proudly, but don't forget to say thank you to those who helped you along the way.

Thomas would like to thank Dr. Kathleen Collins, Maria Virgilio, W. Miguel Disbennett, Francisco Gomez-Rivera, Dr. Thomas Moore, Dr. Hilary Archbold, Dr. Sara Pai, Dr. Jean Campbell, Dr. Pamela Gaddi, Dr. Janice Pappas, Paramedic Jill Holmquest, Dr. Henry Dyson, and many others for their inspiration, selfless guidance, and mentorship.

Minki Lee (Mathematics)

Minki is an Honors Mathematics junior who intends to pursue an MD/Ph.D. in psychiatry and mathematical sciences, with the goal of becoming a researcher in computational psychiatry and mathematical biology at the university level. His research interests focus on circadian rhythms and the sleep-wake cycle.

He works as an undergraduate research assistant with the Forger Group, and successfully developed a Kalman-Filter based method for the prediction of circadian rhythms using data collected from wearable devices such as the Apple Watch and FitBit. This method identified a primary source of perturbation to the human circadian clocks.

When asked how the nomination process has helped him prepare for future applications such as graduate school, he noted, “This process has reminded me of how much passion I have towards the field of mathematical biology and circadian clocks. For future applicants, I would recommend taking full advantage of this wonderful opportunity (and support from ONSF) to reflect on one's research journey and write a cohesive narrative summarizing the journey.”

Kemal Demirer (Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology), Katelyn King (Biomedical Engineering and Robotics), and Tirth Patel (Biomedical Engineering) were also finalists for the Goldwater Scholarship.