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UK Sophomore Isha Chauhan Named Goldwater Scholar

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 11, 2022) — The University of Kentucky Office of Nationally Competitive Awards has announced that UK sophomore Isha Chauhan, from LaGrange, Kentucky, has been awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its kind in the fields of natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. Chauhan is among 417 students nationwide selected to receive the honor, from an estimated pool of over 5,000 students.

Chauhan is majoring in biology on an ecology and evolutionary biology track in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Lewis Honors College.

While she has been interested in biology since a young age, Chauhan says she discovered her love for ecology and evolutionary biology after coming to UK. She has taken that love from the classroom, to the field and now, to the lab.

While at UK, she has completed evolution research by exploring hybridization in lemurs. Last summer, she had an opportunity to complete a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates with the University of Vermont’s Lockwood lab — an experience she says solidified her passion for evolution and ecology biology.

She is now conducting cardiovascular disease research in the UK College of Medicine with her mentor, Gregory Graf,.She plans to use the Goldwater Scholarship to further expand her career in research.

“I have been so grateful for each of these opportunities for introducing me to the versatile world of biology,” Chauhan said. “The Goldwater Scholarship will allow me to conduct independent research, connect with mentors who can better help me understand graduate school and ultimately work towards my goal of becoming a biology professor."

Chauhan’s current research has been supported by UK’s Cardiovascular Research Priority Area, the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center and the UK Department of Physiology at UK.

“Dr. Graf and his entire lab, who mentor my research at the UK College of Medicine, have been incredibly influential in defining my passion for research,” Chauhan said. “Dr. Graf not only pushes me to expand my potential within the lab but also encourages me to pursue opportunities outside of the lab. I am grateful to have him, Kori Williams, Brittney Poole and the rest of the lab as role models as I pursue my career. Moreover, Dr. Everson, my introductory biology teacher, was one of the first people to inspire my passion for teaching and has continued to encourage me since that very first semester.”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Chauhan hopes to continue her education and ultimately pursue a Ph.D. She plans to continue conducting ecology and evolution research and would eventually like to teach at the university level.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was authorized by Congress to honor the former U.S. senator who served the nation for 30 years. The program was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. The Office of Nationally Competitive Awards assists current UK undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni in applying for external scholarships and fellowships funded by sources (such as a nongovernment foundation or government agency) outside the university. These awards honor exceptional students across the nation. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to contact the office well in advance of the scholarship deadline.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.