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Office of News & Public Affairs

BC Biology Major Awarded Goldwater Scholarship

junior matthew evans wins premier undergraduate science award

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (3-27-14) -- Boston College junior Matthew F. Evans, a biology major whose research interests focus on the neurobiology of cell growth, has been awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, considered the country's premier undergraduate award in the sciences.

BC's Goldwater Scholar Matthew Evans

The Goldwater Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit to the country’s most promising college students in math, science and engineering. This year, 283 sophomores and juniors were selected from among 1,166 nominees. Many Goldwater Scholars go on to earn prestigious post-graduate fellowships, including Rhodes, Marshall and Churchill scholarships.

“I’m honored to have been named a recipient of a Goldwater Scholarship. Just being considered among this group of outstanding students is very humbling,” said Evans. “I’m grateful to my mentors in the Biology Department faculty – Laura Anne Lowery and Danielle Taghian – for all of their encouragement and support.”

Evans is the fourth Goldwater Scholarship recipient at Boston College in the last five years. Sophomore James F. Brogan, a chemistry and physics double major who has been working in the laboratory of Professor of Chemistry Paul Davidovits, received Honorable Mention recognition this year. Professor of Chemistry Mary Roberts serves as BC’s representative for the Goldwater Scholarship program.

Evans said he woke up last Friday to a string of congratulatory emails and was surprised to learn that he was among this year’s class of Goldwater scholars.

“It was a great feeling after it sunk in,” said Evans, a native of Pittsford, NY. “I had to call my parents and I called my grandparents. They were all really happy for me.”

Goldwater Scholars receive two-year scholarships and opportunities to meet peers from other universities. This summer, in a project funded by the Biology Department, Evans will work at a lab at Cambridge University in England, learning a new microscopy technique to track gene development in living organisms. He will lead workshops for BC researchers when he returns.

Evans, a pre-med student, said he has always had an interest in biology and in helping patients. But his experience as an undergraduate researcher and during a Connell School of Nursing summer course that took him to Ecuador have fueled a desire to combine clinical and laboratory research with the practice of medicine.

In Ecuador, he climbed high into the mountains with a physician who was researching the unusual epidemiology of malaria in high-altitude villages.

“I want to be a doctor who treats patients, but I love the kind of research I am doing now,” said Evans. “I really think the future of medicine is in studying the specifics of diseases in small rural populations where public health initiatives just haven’t reached them.”

Evans spends 30 hours a week as a researcher in the lab of Boston College Assistant Professor of Biology Laura Anne Lowery, where he studies how nerves grow and connect in frog embryos. Specifically, he is analyzing the structure and function of a gene in a nerve that supports the eye. The research has implications for better understanding neurological development and disease.

Lowery, who along with BC Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology Danielle Taghian wrote letters in support of Evans’ nomination, said Evans is not only a top student, but also adept at solving complex problems and formulating original research projects.

“Matthew displays an intellectual intensity and focus for research that I have rarely seen in an undergraduate student,” Lowery wrote in a nomination letter. “Matthew is the person in our group of many talented individuals that is going to ask the most insightful and inquisitive questions regarding the particular research topic at hand.  He has a gift for quickly absorbing and synthesizing new research material and identifying the most important points of an experiment.”

--Ed Hayward, Office of News & Public Affairs,