Mallory Rothrock, a UNC Asheville junior from Greensboro N.C. studying chemistry and neuroscience, has been awarded a Goldwater Scholarship, the preeminent national scholarship awarded to undergraduates studying the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. She is one of only 287 students across the country majoring in the natural sciences to receive the Goldwater Scholarship this year.
UNC Asheville had already transitioned to remote instruction and Rothrock was home with her mother when news of the scholarship came. “I was so shocked that I received the award, but I was so happy,” Rothrock said. “I immediately texted my advisor, Dr. Holmes.”
Bert Holmes, UNC Asheville’s Carson Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, had invited Rothrock into his research lab in 2018, where she was part of research supported by the National Science Foundation and the Council on Undergraduate Research. Holmes and Rothrock, together with other faculty and student researchers at UNC Asheville, co-authored two articles describing their findings in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Physical Chemistry. Another co-author, Blanton Gillespie, who graduated from UNC Asheville in May 2019, also was a Goldwater Scholarship winner and was awarded UNC Asheville valedictory Manly E. Wright Award for Scholarship.
With ambitions of gaining acceptance to a dual M.D./Ph.D. program in biochemistry, Rothrock is now part of the research group led by UNC Asheville Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Ryan Steed and supported by a National Institutes of Health grant, “working on targeted mutagenesis of the Arginine 50 residue on ATP synthase,” said Rothrock. Her ultimate goal is “to conduct clinical research as a primary care physician pertaining either to adolescent substance abuse or endocrine disorders.”
Due to the coronavirus, she and her research colleagues are temporarily unable to work in the lab. “Moving school online has honestly been weird,” she said. “I enjoy being at school and interacting with my professors, having the opportunity to go into the lab and advance my research forward. Because we can’t physically be in the lab, we are writing papers summarizing the work we accomplished before spring break and where we plan on taking our research next.”
The federally-endowed Goldwater Scholarship will provide $7,500 for Rothrock’s expenses during her senior year. Beyond that, the award will distinguish her as a strong scholar for consideration by graduate programs. “I also think this award will always help remind me that regardless of roadblocks you may hit in your research, persisting always provides multiple meaningful outcomes, both in the world of science and in personal accomplishment,” said Rothrock.