The 2021 Goldwater Foundation Awards were just announced, with all four nominees from The University of New Mexico named winners – all women. Ryla Josephine Cantergiani, Anna Janicek, Abigail Pribisova and Sophia Salbato are among just 410 Goldwater Scholarship awardees from across the United States.

“This is the first time in my knowledge of UNM’s participation in the Goldwater Foundation Awards that all our nominees have won the award,” said Kiyoko Simmons, director of the Center for Academic Excellence & Leadership Development at UNM Honors College. “I am thrilled this prestigious national program recognizes the caliber of UNM students and their potential in representing our institution through the continuation of their studies.”

The Foundation chooses Goldwater Scholars based on 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 UNM Goldwater Committee includes Tariq Khraishi, Summer Hayek, Jeffrey Rack, Sally Seidel, and Stephen Stricker.

The highly competitive awards received applications from more than 5,000 college students representing 438 academic institutions across the country. The pool included applications from students of natural science, engineering and mathematics. According to the Foundation, 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.

As the result of a partnership with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs (NDEP), the Trustees of the Goldwater Board increased the number of Goldwater scholarships it awarded 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 Jagadeesh Pamulapati, Director of the NDEP program, as he explained the partnership.

With the 2021 awards, this brings the number of scholarships awarded since 1989 by the Goldwater Foundation to 9457.

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 fields of the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

UNM Goldwater Foundation Award Winners


Ryla Josephine Cantergiani
Field of Study: Life Sciences
Career Goal: I intend to pursue a PhD in Biomedical Sciences, then conduct research in biomedical sciences at an R1 university. Along with research, I would like to teach at the university.
Mentor(s): Mark McCormick
Campus Representative: Kiyoko Simmons

"It is my privilege to represent The University of New Mexico as a 2021 Goldwater Scholar. I am so grateful to be working with my outstanding mentor, Dr. Mark McCormick. The entire McCormick laboratory has been so supportive of my journey into scientific research, and I am glad to be a part of it. I am especially thankful for my recommenders and Kiyoko Simmons for all her help through this process. This scholarship award confirms that my passion for research is the right direction for my future."


Anna Janicek
Field of Study: Physics and Astronomy
Career Goal: I aim to pursue an electrical engineering Ph.D. By researching plasma physics, I am working towards a career in directed energy as a chief scientist to help develop and support scientific novelties.
Mentor(s): Jennifer Elle, Andreas Schmitt-Sody, Edl Schamiloglu
Campus Representative: Kiyoko Simmons

"I am extremely honored and incredibly grateful to have been selected as a Goldwater Scholar. I have discovered a passion for scientific research and being selected as a scholar is tremendous validation that I can do what I love and make meaningful contributions to the scientific community. Thank you to my mentors, Dr. Jennifer Elle, Dr. Andreas Schmitt-Sody, and Dr. Edl Schamiloglu, for giving me the opportunity and resources to research, to my advisor, Dr. Kiyoko Simmons, for encouraging me through the application process, and to the people in my life who have supported me personally and professionally through my collegiate experiences."


Abigail Pribisova
Field of Study: CISE
Career Goal: Ph.D. in Computer Science. Conduct research utilizing virtual modelling and machine learning to better understand biological processes and teach at the university level.
Mentor(s): Melanie Moses, Matthew Fricke, Emily Donahue
Campus Representative: Kiyoko Simmons

"I am honored to have been chosen as a 2021 Goldwater Scholar. I could not have gotten here without the support of many mentors over the years, and I am especially grateful to my recommenders, Dr. Melanie Moses, Dr. Matthew Fricke, and Emily Donahue. The opportunity to conduct research at the UNM Moses Biological Computation Lab and Sandia National Laboratories has been very impactful to my future career goals."


Sophia Salbato
Field of Study: Life Sciences
Career Goal: Earn a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences, with a concentration in cardiovascular physiology. Become the PI of my own research lab and mentor students at all levels of their science or medical careers.
Mentor(s): Jay Naik, Nancy Kanagy, Emily Morin
Campus Representative: Kiyoko Simmons

"It is such an honor to be considered among my generations' scientists. For years I worried that I was too late and would not have enough experience to become a scientist so becoming a Goldwater Scholar helps me believe that I am good enough. I am grateful to so many people who have helped and inspired me on my journey as a scholar and scientist. I want to thank Dr. Jay Naik, who has been an outstanding mentor in every way, and a great help as I wrote my research proposal for the Goldwater. Dr. Emily Morin for teaching me hands on techniques and being there to answer my numerous questions. Dr. Nancy Kanagy and Benjamin Matheson for being my first research mentors. The amazing community of people in UNM's VPG and the scientists who run UNM's UPN program. I also want to thank my advisors Jennifer Payne and Kiyoko Simmons for their help and support as I wrote my Goldwater personal statements."