Montana Tech Student Awarded Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship


frankie-johnstaon-web.jpgMontana Technological University junior Frankie Johnston has been awarded the 2021 Barry Goldwater Scholarship. The award is the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship awarded in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering in America.

Johnston from Highwood, Montana, has been involved in research on campus since her freshman year. She is pursuing a degree in Geological Engineering. Frankie conducts research using Montana Tech's state-of-the-art earthquake simulating shake table in Dr. Mary MacLaughlin's research group in the Geological Engineering Department. She also serves as the president of the Geo Club and organizes rockhounding trips around the state.

MacLaughlin, a professor in the Geological Engineering Department and Johnston's mentor, said, "Frankie Johnston is a brilliant scholar and researcher. It has been a pleasure to be her mentor for the past two years. I am very proud that Montana Tech has been able to provide the tools and support needed for Frankie to establish herself as one of the up-and-coming young researchers in the exciting field of earthquake engineering."

"I am excited and honored to receive this award," noted Johnston. "I want to thank the Goldwater committee and Montana Tech for giving me this amazing opportunity. I want to thank my letter writers Mary Maclaughlin, Paul Thale, and Brenda Canine, for introducing me to the world of research. I would also like to thank my Mother, Ute Johnston, for supporting me through both the good days and the bad ones." Frankie intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Applied Geophysics and conduct research on how geomechanical properties of rock influence and react to seismicity to create an earthquake early warning system."

Dr. Les Cook added, "Earning a 2021 Goldwater Scholar is an enormous accomplishment that brings pride and distinction to our entire campus. Frankie and her team of faculty mentors represent the best of Montana Tech ~ they are hardworking and innovative, and well-deserving of this award. We look forward to seeing how Frankie's work will impact geophysics in the future."

The Goldwater Board's Trustees increased the number of Goldwater scholarships for the 2021 -2022 academic year to 410 college students from across the United States. "As it is vitally important that the Nation ensures that it has the scientific talent it needs to maintain its global competitiveness and security, we saw partnering with the Goldwater Foundation as a way to help ensure the U.S. is developing this talent," said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, Director of the NDEP program, as he explained the partnership. Since 1989, the Goldwater Foundation has awarded 9457 scholarships.

From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1256 natural science, engineering, and mathematics students were nominated by 438 academic institutions to compete for the 2021 Goldwater scholarships. Of students who reported, 198 of the Scholars are men, 207 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Fifty-one Scholars are mathematics and computer science majors, 291 are majoring in the natural sciences, and 68 are majoring in engineering. Many of the Scholars have published their research in leading professional journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences.

Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 94 Rhodes Scholarships, 150 Marshall Scholarships, 170 Churchill Scholarships, 109 Hertz Fellowships, and numerous other distinguished awards like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on November 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics fields. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

The one and two-year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Montana Tech nominated three students for the 2021 award. The nominees are Hunter Boles, a junior in mathematics, statistics, data science, and computer science; Laurel Bitterman, junior in Environmental Engineering; and Johnston.

Johnston joins the following Montana Tech students who received the Goldwater Award or Honorable Mention: Kathryn Bozer (2020), Brent Sordo (2018), Levin Mullaney (2018, Honorable Mention), Molly Brockway (2016), Macy Ricketts (2015 Honorable Mention), Jordan Leone (2014, Honorable Mention), Ryan Hensleigh (2014, Honorable Mention), Joe Mitzel (2013), Robert Hark (2012), Chris Dienes (2007), Calley Jones (2000), and Ariane Erickson (2011, Honorable Mention).

Dr. Marisa Pedulla chairs Montana Tech's National Student Awards Committee (NSAC), supporting Montana Tech students for major national and international scholarships. Founded in 2006, NSAC's mission is to create a campus community that fosters and supports outstanding Montana Tech students throughout their education and to nominate and assist top students in preparing applications for prestigious National Awards. "The NSAC is comprised of talented and dedicated faculty and staff helping Montana Tech's outstanding undergraduates to realize their potential and be recognized for their accomplishments. Working with these students and NSAC members has been a tremendously rewarding endeavor," explained Pedulla. "It's exciting and motivating to work closely with the student nominees and dedicated committee members in the process of preparing applications. Frankie's recognition by the Goldwater Foundation is incredible for her and the entire Montana Tech community and is a testament to the mentorship provided by Dr. MacLaughlin. Special thanks to Trisha Southergill, who served as acting chair of the NSAC this year".

Since 2000, Montana Tech students have received eight Goldwater Scholarships and five Goldwater Honorable Mention awards. Two students, Jack Stratton (2009) and Casey Clark (2011), were finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship. Montana Tech 2010 chemistry alum Cory Sonnemann, who graduated from Pacific Northwest University College of Osteopathic Medicine, won a National Health Service Corps Scholarship. Katie Tabaracci, Joe Mitzel, and Ivan Sljivar, a metallurgical engineering alum, all won the NAIA Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award.

Former Montana Tech Chancellor Dr. W. Franklin Gilmore served as President of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation from 2012 to 2015. The Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on November 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program, honoring Senator Barry Goldwater, fosters and encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

For more information, please visit