Salina Student Named Goldwater Scholar

Kansas State University student Joshua Nelson, a junior in physics from Salina, is the university’s newest Barry M. Goldwater scholar. Aaron Messerla, a junior in mathematics from Manhattan, is a Goldwater scholar honorable mention.

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1986 to honor Sen. Barry M. Goldwater from Arizona, the Goldwater scholarship is awarded to approximately 300 college students across the country every year. Awardees receive up to $7,500 annually for college-related expenses.

Nelson and Messerla have active research projects and intend to pursue careers in mathematics, science or engineering — a scholarship requirement.

Nelson is working with Carlos Trallero, assistant professor of physics, in the James R. Macdonald Laboratory, developing new techniques to produce usable high-energy, ultrafast laser pulses. More specifically, they are engineering a method to increase the amount of energy transmitted through a hollow core fiber. The many applications and uses of lasers sparked Nelson’s research.

“It is a huge honor to be named a Goldwater scholar. I never expected to win such a prestigious award,” Nelson said.

After completion of his undergraduate studies, Nelson plans to earn a doctorate in physics. He hopes to eventually work as a professor of physics and perform research in atomic, molecular and optical physics.

Nelson is vice president of the Jardine Hall Governing Board, a research assistant for the James R. MacDonald Laboratory and an Eagle Scout. He also was selected to participate in a 2014 K-State Research Experience for Undergraduates. He has received a College of Arts & Sciences Research Scholarship and Dane G. Hansen Student Scholarship. A 2012 graduate of Salina South High School, he is the son of Dennis and Mary Nelson, Salina.

Messerla is working with David Auckly, professor of mathematics, on a dance program that depicts a specific class of geometric shapes using ropes.

“The goal is to link all of these shapes together so that one shape will deform into another one with different dance moves. This dance is going to be an extended form of a dance designed by Scott Kim and Karl Schaffer called ‘Platonic Metamorphosis,'” Messerla said.

After completing his undergraduate studies, Messerla plans to attend graduate school and study pure mathematics.

“I want to earn my doctorate and become a professor at a university where I can teach and do research,” he said.

Messerla is a member of Pi Mu Epsilon math honor society and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. He also is a mathematics department I-Center Scholar and a member of the university’s Concert Band and Cat Band. He has received a College of Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Research Scholarship, Putnam Scholarship, Fort Riley Combined Scholarship, James R. Foster Jr. Memorial Arts and Sciences Scholarship, Thomas L. and Elouise J. Miller Scholarship for Excellence in Mathematics, Riley County 4-H Foundation Scholarship and the Mary Lou Gibbs State 4-H Scholarship. A 2012 graduate of Riley County High School, Riley, he is the son of Dave and Dawn Messerla, Manhattan.

Since its inception in 1986, 73 Kansas State University students have won Goldwater Scholarships, more than any other public university. Students interested in learning more about competing for future Goldwater awards or other scholarships can contact Jim Hohenbary at [email protected].

Story by: Lauren Meehan / Kansas State University