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Two student researchers earn prestigious 2024 Goldwater scholarships

The boise state B statue through spring blooms

Sara Alsaifi and Jasmine Baclig are the latest Boise State students selected for Goldwater scholarships – the country’s most historic and prestigious national scholarships in natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. Alsaifi and Baclig were chosen for their potential to become the next generation of research leaders in these fields, and they join nine other Boise State students who have received Goldwater scholarships dating back to 1991.

“I am so proud of Sara and Jasmine,” said Kate Huebschmann, Honors College assistant director and fellowships advisor. “Throughout their Goldwater application process, I was impressed at their ability to synthesize information, work proactively towards their goals and persevere through difficulty – all the same qualities that have made them fantastic researchers during their time here.”

This is the third time in Boise State history that two students have won in a given year. They are among 438 fellow Goldwater Scholars out of a pool of 1,353 science, engineering and mathematics students (nominated by 446 academic institutions).

“They will have an incredible impact on the fields of drug discovery and disease treatment, and I look forward to celebrating their future successes,” Huebschmann added.

Sara Alsaifi

Headshot of Sara Alsaifi, a 2024 Goldwater Scholar
2024 Goldwater Scholar Sara Alsaifi hopes that her research will better understand the mechanisms of neurological diseases, finding more effective treatments for these ailments.

Sara Alsaifi, majoring in biology with minors in chemistry and psychology, was born in Baghdad during the Iraq War. Her parents left their families and occupations as physicians to seek refuge in Syria before fleeing to the U.S. When she arrived in America, Alsaifi struggled with the language barrier and keeping up with the pace of her classmates. She had to relocate to three different schools for better support.

“Despite these hardships, my parents taught me to never limit my dreams and to relentlessly pursue them no matter the circumstances,” she said.

She sought mentorship from teachers, studied over summers and improved her writing by borrowing literature from a public library. By high school, she excelled in her classes – including nine advanced placement courses – and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT. She independently studied pathology and competed at regional and international medical conferences. Alsaifi arrived at Boise State with 40 college credits already completed.

“This could not have been accomplished without the unending support of my teachers, parents and community who pushed me beyond the limits I once put on myself,” she said. “I hope to serve as a support system for others throughout my career. This investment can change the trajectory of a student’s life as it did for me.”

Alsaifi will pursue a master’s and Ph.D. in molecular biology after she completes her undergraduate degree next year. She aspires to conduct research that better understands the mechanisms of neurological diseases, finding more effective treatments for these ailments. She is a recipient of the Dream Award, American Chemical Society and Governor’s Cup scholarships. She is a Chemistry Club member, a statistics tutor and a volunteer at Saint Alphonsus for the last five years. She also knits blankets for the Humane Society in her spare time.

Jasmine Baclig

Headshot of Jasmine Baclig, 2024 Goldwater Scholar
2024 Goldwater Scholar Jasmine Baclig aims to explore ways nucleic acids can be utilized in drug discovery to provide long-lasting, curative therapy for various diseases.

Jasmine Baclig is a chemistry major, minoring in computer science with a certificate in Spanish. Baclig’s family moved from the Philippines to the U.S. when she was in the eighth grade, and she became the first in her family to study in America.

She credits her family’s inquisitive nature for helping her ask the right questions and seek constant advice throughout high school.

“My journey to college was not easy, but the resourcefulness and perseverance instilled by my Filipino upbringing aided me,” she said.

During her first year at Boise State, Baclig became passionate about research.

“Though I was elated to start my first research project, I was also anxious and nervous about messing up,” she said. “But upon doing my first experiment, a postdoc said I was the first to purify RNA in the lab, which boosted my confidence. So I thought, ‘Maybe I’m cut out for research.'”

She is a Best Undergraduate Summer Research awardee from the 2023 INBRE conference, an NSF EPSCoR GEM3 Fellowship recipient, an NIH-INBRE Summer Research fellowship recipient, a content writer for the STEM-inclined Filipino youth-led organization Siyensiya, an organic chemistry tutor, an assistant to a chemistry lab instructor and an Honors College Social Committee member.

Baclig intends to pursue a Ph.D. in biomolecular science. She hopes to explore ways nucleic acids can be utilized in drug discovery to provide long-lasting, curative therapy for various diseases.

“I realized that it was my perseverance, not necessarily my technical skills, that made the difference in my success. And this perseverance was fueled by my love for problem-solving, which I have found ubiquitous in research,” she said. “I am eager to see what research problems lie ahead of me and how I will be a part of solving them in the future.”

About the Goldwater Scholarship

The Goldwater program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor the lifetime work of Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman. Goldwater Scholarships help ensure that the U.S. continues to produce highly qualified professionals in critical STEM fields. Today, Goldwater alumni can be found conducting research that benefits the nation, finding cures for catastrophic diseases and teaching future generations of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.