Women’s History Month may be over, but two University of New Mexico students are still reaching landmark achievements.

Kelsey Adler and Melissa Rudden, have been chosen as 2023-2024 Goldwater Scholars, a prestigious honor only 413 students in the U.S. earned this year. The selection pool contained over 5,000 academically strong applicants, from more than 427 schools.

Founded in recognition of the U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater, the Goldwater Scholarship provides up to $7,500 in financial support for students who are planning to pursue a Ph.D. and a career in STEM research.

Kelsey Adler

Adler is a sophomore physics student, who is minoring in computer science and mathematics. She is heralded as a talented, young researcher.

Kelsey with her late grandma
Adler with her "bunica" (grandmother) Zorica Madar, before Madar passed away in Oct. 2022.

"I feel incredibly lucky and honored to have been named a 2023 Goldwater Scholar. Pursuing a career in Physics despite very many obstacles is a genuine dream come true,” Adler said.

Adler is also a MARTIANS intern at the Sandia National Labs, and also assists on the Statistical Approach to Lineshapes from the Average Atom (SALSAA) project. She also has worked with STEM youth, previouusly serving as a TRIO Peer Mentor at UNM, while creating her own “Leap to Physics” program, which exposes Bernalillo country middle schoolers to physics and STEM fields. Leap to Physics will have a hard launch in the fall.

“I couldn't be more thankful for my mentors Dr. Stephanie Hansen, Dr. Thomas Gomez, Dr. Dave Hammer, and Dr. Nathaniel Shaffer among others at Sandia, who despite their own busy lives have offered their thoughtful mentorship, constructive feedback, and support throughout this exciting journey,” she said. “I am also thankful to UNM's Dr. Kiyoko Simmons and Dr. Jeffrey Rack for their guidance.”

Adler plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Plasma Physics and then become a scientist in high energy density physics and plasma physics.  

“The Goldwater scholarship for me bolsters my confidence as a first-generation student and woman in physics and math, and I can't wait to continue making contributions to the multifaceted and consequential field of high energy density physics,” she said.  

Melissa Rudden

Rudden is a junior student, majoring in chemistry and minoring in professional writing. She is currently researching binuclear complexes for Quantum Information Systems (QIS), and plans to set up a future in nanoscience, which she hopes will include conducting future research on material science, QIS, Quantum Mechanics, and general relativity at national labs.  

“I am so grateful to have been selected as a Goldwater Scholar. I was speechless when I found out.  Being awarded this scholarship strengthens my view that I am on the right path,” Rudden said. “I am now even more committed to becoming a world class scientist who will discover and create the next generation solutions and materials that will help the world to advance.”

She also prioritizes future STEM leaders by tutoring at the Center for Academic Program Support, serving as a chemistry teaching assistant and as an officer for the Lobo Chemistry Club. 

Melissa Rudden
Melissa Rudden

She is also a McNair Scholar, a recipient of the Lane Scholarship, ASSURE Fellowship and the Dr. Thomas Whaley Endowed Memorial Scholarship. 

“I am very thankful for the continuing support of my PI, Dr. Jeffery Rack, and my mentors, Dr. Stephen Cabaniss and Dr. David Keller,” Rudden said.

There have been more than 10,000 Goldwater Scholars since the scholarship was established in 1989. UNM has had 12 Goldwater Scholars since 2015.

“UNM has a proven track record of success when it comes to the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship,” Honors College Scholarship & Outreach Manager Kiyoko Simmons said. “Our exceptional applicants possess extensive research experience and receive unwavering support from our esteemed faculty mentors. Securing the Goldwater scholarship not only provides financial assistance but also serves as a validation of their potential to make significant contributions as researchers in their respective fields.”

UNM’s Center for Academic Excellence & Leadership Development in Honors College oversees the process of the prestigious scholarships, providing students merit-based scholarship and fellowship opportunities. The Center helps UNM students to become competitive candidates for prestigious scholarships by coordinating the institutional endorsement and assisting the UNM nominees with the scholarship application process. Students who are interested in these scholarships must submit a preliminary application to obtain institutional endorsement. For more information on scholarship opportunities visit the CAELD scholarship website.