Bucknell sophomore Meredith Lutz has received a prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship, an award granted to undergraduate students with outstanding potential for research careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. Lutz was nominated by University professors and selected from a pool of more than 1,200 applicants as one of 260 Goldwater Scholars for the 2015-16 academic year.
The animal behavior and applied mathematical sciences double major conducts undergraduate research with several professors, including Peter Judge, animal behavior, and Kevin Myers, psychology.
"She's constantly seeking answers about how things work and looking for connections. It really makes a difference that she's driven by a true love of learning," Myers said.
For the national application for the scholarship, Lutz wrote one of her essays about her work in Professor Judge's lab, where she has analyzed self-handicapping behavior in capuchin monkeys, a phenomenon that occurs during play fighting between physically mismatched partners. "We found that older and assumedly more skilled monkeys inhibited their physical strength, allowing the younger monkey to play as well," she said. "This handicapping by the more skilled partner creates unexpected situations that both partners can learn from."
Lutz works with Professor Myers to study obesity and binge-eating behaviors in rats. "Professor Myers has been nothing but supportive of my dreams and ideas during my time here at Bucknell," she said. "He, along with Professor Gazes in animal behavior, helped with my national application. Professor Gazes was able to offer me lots of good advice and strategies for revising my first drafts. Writing this sort of application was definitely daunting at first, but she helped me to break it down into more manageable pieces."
Lutz has also received support from Professor Morgan Benowitz-Fredericks, biology. "She's been an amazing mentor, and although I haven't taken many classes with her, she's become a great friend," Lutz said. "I go to her office often to talk about my studies and life in general. She was one of the original people that encouraged me to seek out different research opportunities."
In fall 2015, Lutz will study abroad in Madagascar as a part of the SIT Madagascar Biodiversity & Natural Resource Management Program. "I'll be camping around Madagascar studying lemur play and habitat quality," she said. "It's always been a dream of mine to travel there, and now it's coming true."
Like all of her fellow Goldwater Scholars, Lutz plans to pursue a doctorate in either behavioral ecology or primatology. "I have a lot to get through before that, but I'm excited nonetheless," she said.
Professor Judge believes Lutz is up for the challenge. "Meredith is the perfect example of an engaged student who is taking full advantage of the unique opportunities provided by Bucknell," he said. "I see her almost every day at the Animal Behavior Lab, and we discuss the ongoing behavioral projects she is conducting with the primates. She is always happy to help."
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields.