Washington and Lee’s Jensen Rocha ’23 Awarded Goldwater Scholarship Each scholar is awarded $7,500 to support undergraduate research in their junior or senior year.
Jensen Rocha ’23, a chemistry major and environmental studies minor at Washington and Lee University, has won a highly competitive Goldwater Scholarship, which promotes research careers in science, mathematics and engineering. Rocha is a native of San Jose, California, and graduated from Prospect High School.
“I feel incredibly honored to win this award,” said Rocha. “I never thought I would be recognized for my potential as a researcher in such a dramatic way. I want, more than ever, to be an incredible researcher, and I want to contribute new knowledge to the field of chemistry and use my gift for science to help the environment and people.”
Erin Gray, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at W&L, has mentored Rocha throughout her time on campus and credits Rocha for the hard work and dedication she puts into her research.
“Jensen undertook a collaborative research project developing a novel catalytic method for synthesizing medicinally relevant heterocycles, and the project truly gained momentum with Jensen’s contributions during a full-time, nine-week summer research experience,” said Gray. “Her ability to multitask and critically analyze results is exceptional for an undergraduate student. Jensen’s inquisitive nature leads her to assess outcomes with healthy skepticism while thoughtfully considering the underlying chemical mechanisms involved. These traits and determination undoubtedly enabled her to advance the project and will serve her well as a research scientist.”
Rocha plans to use the Goldwater Scholarship to help prepare herself for the future.
“The recognition the award grants me will make me a much more qualified applicant for funding for my graduate-level research, such as the National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship program,” said Rocha. “Working on this application pushed me to think about what kind of research I want to do in my future, which has made me more passionate about the research I am doing now.”
After Rocha graduates from W&L, she plans to pursue a doctorate in the green chemistry field. She also hopes to apply for a Fulbright grant.
“I will definitely be applying for a Fulbright after graduation,” said Rocha. “If I were to receive one, it would be a wonderful change of pace to a different kind of research before diving into a six-year graduate program. I have also yet to take biochemistry, which may influence the graduate programs I consider.”
One of the oldest and most prestigious STEM scholarships in the country, the Goldwater Scholarship aims to identify and support undergraduate sophomores and juniors who show promise of becoming research leaders in their respective fields and intend to pursue a doctorate degree. Each selected scholar is awarded $7,500 to support undergraduate research in their junior or senior year.
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