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Two Boise State students become next generation of research leaders as Goldwater scholars

Boise State B Statue
Summer, Campus Scenes, Kristen McPeek Photo

The Goldwater Scholarship Program, one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in natural sciences, engineering and mathematics, selected Boise State honors students Pangaea Finn and Josue Torres-Fonseca as 2022 scholars. The program identifies and supports sophomore and junior level students who show exceptional promise of becoming the next generation of research leaders in these fields.

The two Boise State students join an exclusive group of the 417 students who received awards from a pool of 1,242 nominated students representing 433 academic institutions this year.

Pangaea Finn, a 2022 Goldwater scholar triple majoring in mathematics, physics and music performance

Finn began her Boise State career enrolled in a calculus course at the age of 13 and was a full-time freshman student by 14. She is now triple majoring in mathematics, physics, and music performance as a junior. She hopes to pursue a career in biophysical research, using physical and electrical methods to discover the microscopic biology of bilayer lipid membranes.

“I’m elated to be a representative of the small but flourishing physics community here at Boise State,” said Finn. “As an early college student, I’ve had challenging experiences in the traditional education system, but earning this scholarship was further validation of the support I’ve had from my professors and my department.”

Finn’s research mentor is Daniel Fologea, a professor in the physics department. Her aspirations include teaching at a research university to educate and inspire the next generation of scientists, a group she’s now a part of as a Goldwater scholar.

“I’m always exploring new avenues within the field and this scholarship will help me explore my specific interests in physics, leading me towards exactly what I hope to research in the future,” she said.

Torres-Fonseca is a computer science major who’s passionate about natural language processing and spoken dialogue systems. Through his research, he hopes to create intelligent systems that enhance the lives of users who are deaf, blind or have other disabilities. His goal is to attend graduate school in Spain or Germany through the Erasmus Mundus European Masters Program in Language and Communication Technologies. Torres-Fonseca’s research mentor, Assistant Professor Casey Kennington, also mentored Boise State’s 2018 Goldwater scholar, Daniele Moro.

Josue Torres-Fonseca, a 2022 Goldwater scholar majoring in computer science

“I am in a field with very little diversity so I always feel as if I have to prove myself, even if others don’t directly or indirectly communicate that, because I want to personally be an example for other minorities in the field,” he said.

Torres-Fonseca is grateful to those who believed in him and who recognized the positive effect that his work will have on others. “Research doesn’t have much of an impact in the world if others don’t believe in it and its potential because much of the work can’t be done alone.”

Nine Boise State students – now including Finn and Torres-Fonseca – have received the Goldwater Scholarship since 1991. The Honors College and its fellowship advisor Kate Huebschmann support candidates throughout the application process.

“The scholarship has already had a huge impact on my career and that was before even receiving it,” Torres-Fonseca added. “I had the honor of working with Kate to make my application as strong as possible, which was important because not only did it give me a higher chance of receiving the scholarship but also significantly helped me apply to other research opportunities.”

Learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship Program.