UTSA Top Scholar and Honors College student Sara Dibrell named 2017 Goldwater Scholar

Sara Dibrell is the second UTSA student to ever receive the Goldwater Scholarship

Sara Dibrell is the second UTSA student to ever receive the Goldwater Scholarship.

(April 27, 2017) -- A University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Top Scholar and Honors College student has been awarded the distinguished Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Sara Dibrell, a biochemistry major from Seguin, Texas, is the second Roadrunner in consecutive years to ever receive the award.

The scholarship is widely considered the nation's most prestigious honor for undergraduate math and science students.

"When I learned that I won, I was overwhelmed with all of the excitement and congratulations from my UTSA professors, mentors and friends," said Dibrell. "I am extremely grateful for their incredible support and so excited to have won a scholarship to help me take advantage of my enthusiasm for chemistry."

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, named in honor of Senator Barry Goldwater, awards scholarships in the amount of $7,500. These competitive scholarships are offered each year to 240 junior and senior undergraduates pursuing mathematics and science degrees across the U.S.

"Having awardees two years in a row puts UTSA on the map in a new and significant way, signaling that our students do not just compete, but win, among the very best of the best in the nation," said Kristi Meyer, director of the UTSA Top Scholar program. "For the Top Scholar program, this is solid confirmation that the investment the university made to recruit and retain these very high achieving students is paying off."

Dibrell conducts top-tier research in UTSA medicinal chemist Doug Frantz's organic chemistry laboratory. The 21-year-old is working alongside UTSA graduate students to find a breakthrough in the treatment of chronic pain.

"Sara is just one of those students who is driven by her own personal desire to succeed in every aspect both in the classroom and in the laboratory," Frantz said. "She is always seeking out new opportunities to enhance her tenure at UTSA and takes full advantage of them."

Two other UTSA students were recognized with Goldwater Honorable Mentions.

Cory Nguyen, a Top Scholar and Honors College biology student, has spent two years in the research laboratory of Karl Klose, a microbiology professor who is working on vaccine development in the UTSA College of Sciences and South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases.

"My involvement in Dr. Klose's research lab was the most important factor when applying for this award," said Nguyen. "Additionally, the UTSA Top Scholar Program and Honors College have provided support and guidance throughout my academic and research careers at UTSA."

Honors College and biomedical engineering student Travis Kotzur also received a Goldwater Honorable Mention. He conducts research in the biology laboratory of UTSA assistant professor Brian Hermann, where they're studying a drug that could prevent infertility in cancer patients.

"My education and experiences at UTSA have played a critical role in receiving this honor," said Kotzur. "If it was not for the enormous push for research and the huge assistance of the faculty, I never would have been prepared to apply for such an award."

UTSA Honors College Dean Sean Kelly believes that learning about UTSA's Goldwater honorees may entice others to consider the UTSA Honors College or Top Scholars program.

"It demonstrates that UTSA is preparing students, and preparing them early, to be recognized as the best amongst their peers," said Kelly. "Success with major national awards, like the Goldwater, provide external recognition of the quality of our students, faculty, staff and programs. For students thinking about applying to Honors or Top Scholars, these types of recognitions speak loudly about the excellent academic experiences that they will have in our college and at UTSA."

Dibrell is on track to graduate with her B.S. in Biochemistry and minor in Business Administration in May 2018. Then she plans to pursue a Ph.D. and postdoctoral fellowship in chemical biology to become a medicinal chemist, focusing on small molecule drug discovery.

"Through my research, I hope to help meet the industry need to improve the availability of medicine to patients around the globe and ultimately to end unnecessary pain in people worldwide."

UTSA is ranked among the top 400 universities in the world and among the top 100 in the nation, according to Times Higher Education.

- Courtney Clevenger


Learn more about the UTSA Honors College.

Learn more about the UTSA Top Scholar program.

Learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship.

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