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From left: Oklahoma State students Collin Thornton, Ashley Gin and Alexis Vance were named Goldwater Scholars.

OSU tops state with three 2021 Goldwater Scholars

Monday, March 29, 2021

Three Oklahoma State University Honors College students have won Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, the prestigious undergraduate award for outstanding students who seek research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

The 2021 scholarship winners were announced Friday morning.

Ashley Gin is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology with a pre-veterinary science option and a minor in mathematics. A junior from Oklahoma City, Gin was a Freshman Research Scholar. She won Wentz Research Scholarships for her sophomore and junior years, conducting multiple research projects on poultry and human innate immunology and therapeutic investigation. Her research mentor is Dr. Glenn Zhang in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. 

Gin has been working in a biomedical research lab at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation as a member of the Fleming Scholars Program, and she participated in the 2019 Cambridge Scholars Program, studying health care systems of the United States and United Kingdom at the University of Cambridge. Gin plans to obtain a doctorate in immunology and infectious disease with a focus on immunological responses to zoonotic diseases.

"I am incredibly honored and grateful to be selected as a 2021 Goldwater Scholar. Research can be a difficult process of overcoming repeated obstacles; therefore, it is encouraging and humbling to have this reassurance that a research career is the right track for me,” Gin said. “Being in the lab after learning that I was awarded the Goldwater made me that much more invested in my project and excited to see what lies ahead. OSU has played an integral role in providing opportunities to develop my interest and pursuit of a research career over the past three years, and I am beyond thankful for my research labs, mentors, and the supportive faculty and administration at OSU for making this a possibility."

Collin Thornton is a junior from Duncan, Oklahoma, who is double majoring in computer engineering and electrical engineering. Thornton was an inaugural member of the Oklahoma State Scholars Society, one of 20 incoming freshmen selected for their leadership, service and academic potential. He was also a CEAT Scholar and a Freshman Research Scholar as well as  a recipient of the Wentz Research Scholarship in both his sophomore and junior years. 

Thornton has been engaged in extensive research projects on OSU’s autonomous golf cart and unmanned aerial systems, mentored by Dr. He Bai in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Thornton also was president of OSU Mercury Robotics and a team lead for the Space Cowboys program. He participated in an internship for Tinker Air Force Base. Thornton is on track to complete the Honors College degree, and he plans to pursue a doctorate in controls engineering. He hopes to conduct research professionally in the automation and control of unmanned vehicles.

“I’ve had amazing support from OSU and my mentors over the past two years,” Thornton said. “The Goldwater application process is an intensely introspective task, often demanding answers to questions about my goals that I hadn’t yet asked myself. Having been a nominee for OSU twice over, I can safely say that the knowledge gained from applying is worth as much as the award itself. I cannot encourage future applicants enough: Give it a shot.”

Alexis Vance is triple majoring in chemical, mechanical and aerospace engineering. She is the first OSU student to combine all three programs at the undergraduate level, and she has supplemented her coursework with an extensive history of research projects under the mentorship of Dr. Jamey Jacob and Dr. Brian Elbing in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. A junior from Leawood, Kansas, Vance is a W.W. Allen Scholar and a Wentz Research Scholar. 

She has performed atmospheric monitoring of infrasound, led a team of students designing a spacewalk tool as part of a NASA design challenge and served on a research team working with OSU’s Unmanned Systems Research Institute. Most recently, she coordinated solar balloon flight testing through a NASA PSTAR grant, a collaboration between the Jet Propulsion Lab, Sandia National Labs and OSU. She also has completed four separate work tours with NASA’s Pathways Program, including spacecraft thermal design, life support systems, flight control and spacewalk execution. Vance plans to pursue a doctorate in aerospace engineering and conduct research in spacecraft development for deep space exploration.

I owe a great deal to the mentors that I have had throughout my undergraduate research career,” Vance said. “From the very beginning of my freshman year, they have been challenging me to take on projects and leadership roles that I had thought were beyond what I could do. It is my greatest hope that I can one day return the favor by supporting future students and mentees in my research career as they have supported me. 

“This scholarship is very impactful to me, as it opens up a world of career opportunities that will allow me to have a meaningful impact on the scientific research community. I look forward to tackling the great engineering challenges of my generation's future with the skills I have gained at Oklahoma State.”

Gin, Thornton and Vance are OSU’s 27th, 28th and 29th Goldwater Scholars. They were selected from a pool of 1,256 applicants from 438 institutions across the country. OSU has produced eight Goldwater scholars in the past three years. The Goldwater Scholarships are valued at up to $7,500 per year.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mack Burke | OSU Editorial Coordinator | 405.744.5540 | 


The Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to serve as a memorial to honor Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Today, Goldwater alumni conduct research that helps defend the nation, find cures for catastrophic diseases and teach future generations of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

The Henry Bellmon Office of Scholar Development and Undergraduate Research at OSU has long been a national leader and innovator in scholar development, assisting students in seeking national/international scholarships and fellowships. The office also encourages student-faculty mentoring, undergraduate research and international travel experience. For more information, contact office director Jessica Sullins at or 405-744-7313.

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