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Three Whitworth Students Named 2020 Goldwater Scholars

April 2, 2020
Three Whitworth University undergraduate students have been awarded prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships.

The Goldwater Scholarship Program supports undergraduates who show exceptional promise of becoming the nation’s next generation of research leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

This is the first time three Whitworth students have received the award in the same year. The 2020 recipients are Ryan Bax ’20, Ben Crews ’21 and Maria Straight ’21.

“To have one student win one of these scholarships is a big deal,” says Whitworth Professor of Engineering & Physics Richard Stevens, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship campus representative. “In my opinion, this is one of the highest awards an undergraduate STEM student can achieve in the United States. To have three students win in one year in an institution the size of Whitworth is unheard of and unprecedented.”

Other institutions with three winners this year include the University of Washington, Stanford University, the University of California Berkeley, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • Bax is a senior majoring in biology from Colbert, Wash. He hopes to attend an M.D./Ph.D. program in order to become a researching physician in a university environment. He is currently interested in researching cancer biology and says this scholarship has helped put him on that path. “Receiving this scholarship means a lot to me because it really validates all the work I have put into research throughout my college career,” Bax says. Bax’s mentor, Professor of Biology Aaron Putzke, says Bax is an exceptional student with a proactive approach to research. “Ryan’s motivated work ethic is balanced by his desire to learn how cell communication works, and his tenacity will be an advantage to him throughout his research career.”
  • Crews is a junior majoring in biology from Stevensville, Mont. He says this scholarship validates the work he has put in for the last three years and proves he can succeed in research science if he puts his mind to it. “Once I graduate, I would like to be involved in practicing medicine and research,” Crews says. “I’m considering translational research, as it blends medicine and research quite well.” Whitworth’s Hugh W. Johnston Professor of Chemistry Kraig Wheeler says, “Ben is an extraordinary student and person. You don’t need to take my word for it; just look at his academics, outcomes from his National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/National Institutes of Health-supported research for the last two summers, and meaningful, ongoing work with the community. Ben is simply an inspiring student to work with.”
  • Straight is a junior majoring in physics from Nampa, Idaho. “I am honored to receive this award,” Straight says. “My interest in continuing to do research has been strengthened by the affirmation that people value my research contributions as an undergraduate.” Straight is currently working on research she started at the University of Texas at Austin last summer focusing on dark matter halos. She plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics and perform research related to cosmology, dark matter and dark energy. Associate Professor of Engineering & Physics John Larkin has been a mentor to Straight. “Maria has a sharp mind and is able to quickly grasp new scientific concepts,” he says. “This allows her to adapt and extend what she has learned in one context and apply it to a new situation. She combines that with diligence and a commitment to excellence in all of her work.”
This year, 1,343 students were nominated by 461 academic institutions, and 396 of those students were awarded scholarships. The Goldwater Scholars will each receive up to $7,500 per year for tuition, books, and room and board.

The Goldwater Scholarships honor longtime Arizona senator and 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater and were first awarded in 1989. For more information, visit

About Whitworth University:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of more than 3,000 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or