2013 Goldwater Scholars

Two RIT undergraduates, Tessa DiDonato from Douglas, Massachusetts and Bryan Ek from Chesapeake Beach, Maryland have been named 2013 Goldwater Scholars. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award for students interested in pursuing a career in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering. The award is based on academic merit, and virtually all winners plan on pursuing a Ph.D. Many have extensive undergraduate research experience as well. This year, 271 sophomores and juniors were selected from 1,107 nominees. The $7,500 per year scholarship covers tuition, fees, books, and room and board. Goldwater Scholars compose an elite group with 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 118 Marshall Awards, and 110 Churchhill Scholarships being awarded to past Goldwater Scholars.


Tessa DiDonato, a junior Biochemistry major, will receive $7500 for her senior year. Tessa has been conducting biochemistry research since her freshman year in the School of Chemistry and Materials Science at RIT, under the direction of Dr. Suzanne O’Handley. Her research entails the study of diadenosine polyphosphatase / mRNA decapping enzymes of the Nudix hydrolase superfamily with a focus on those from M. tuberculosis and M. leprae, as potential novel antibiotic targets. She has presented her work at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the National Meeting of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) as well as local and regional meetings. Tessa has won an RIT Presidential Scholarship, a COS Summer Research Fellowship, ASBMB and ACS travel awards. She is also in the RIT four-year Honors Program and is an RIT Chemistry Research Scholar. Tessa is a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society for Microbiology, and the American Chemical Society. She is also a resident advisor, tutor, teaching assistant, member of the RIT ASBMB student affiliates, and volunteer at the Rochester Museum and Science Center including involvement in the national program “Portal to the Public”. Tessa plans to obtain her Ph.D. in Microbiology or Biochemistry, and plans for a research career in Infectious Disease.


Bryan Ek, a junior with dual majors in Applied Math and Physics, will receive $7500 for his senior year. Bryan has been conducting research since the beginning of his sophomore year with Dr. Darren Narayan, including through a summer REU. Bryan’s research has included: minimal k-rankings of bent ladder graphs, connectivity and efficiency of graphs as they pertain to the efficiency of metro stations and the brain. He has published in both areas of research and presented his findings at the American Mathematical Society meeting and at the Joint Mathematics Meetings. Bryan is a grader for Differential Equations and won “grader of the year”. Bryan has won a number of other distinctions including an RIT Presidential Scholarship and a Nathaniel Rochester Scholarship, and 93rd Percentile in the William Putnam Math Competition. He is in the RIT Honors program, in Pi Mu Epsilon (Math Honors Fraternity), in Sigma Pi Sigma (Physics Honors Fraternity), a Mackall Scholar, and was named an Eagle Scout. In his free time, he is on captain of the intramural soccer team and member of the racquetball team.