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W&L’s Austin Molitor ’25 Awarded Goldwater Scholarship Molitor is one of three W&L students selected for the scholarship this spring.

Austin-Molitor-600x400 W&L’s Austin Molitor ’25 Awarded Goldwater Scholarship

Washington and Lee University junior Austin Molitor ’25 has been awarded a highly competitive Goldwater Scholarship to support a research career in science, mathematics and engineering. At W&L, Molitor is a mathematics major and computer science minor. Molitor is a native of Lockport, Illinois, and graduated from Lockport Township High School.

The Goldwater Scholarship is one of the oldest and most prestigious science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) scholarships in the country and aims to support undergraduate sophomores and juniors who show promise of becoming research leaders in their respective fields and intend to pursue a doctorate degree. Universities can only submit four nominees’ applications, and each selected scholar is awarded $7,500 to support undergraduate research in their junior or senior year. A record three W&L students were selected for Goldwater Scholarships this spring.

The scholarship will give Molitor the financial flexibility to spend more time on his research, which focuses on finding occurrences of special types of integers called Riesel and Sierpiński numbers within infinite number sequences. The first significant result he obtained was a new smallest cube that is a Sierpiński number, and this Winter Term he found a cube that is both Sierpiński and Riesel and is 789 digits long. Molitor plans to pursue a doctorate in pure mathematics, and with the Goldwater Scholarship, he’ll be able to develop his research and ensure he’s a competitive candidate for graduate school.

“I feel extremely honored to receive this award, and it is one of the first things that has made me truly feel that my dream is achievable,” Molitor said.

At W&L, Molitor is president of the club running team and a member of the university wind ensemble. Molitor conducts research under the guidance of Carrie Finch-Smith, professor of mathematics, and most recently worked with her doing number theory research as a summer research scholar through the summer research program’s two-year STEM Fellowship. Conducting independent research with Finch-Smith during the semester has been one of Molitor’s most impactful experiences at W&L, and she has inspired him to pursue a career as a mathematics professor.

“Professor Finch-Smith makes me want to be the kind of professor she is to a younger generation,” Molitor said. “She is always able and willing to help. She inspires me so much, and I would like to have the same kind of effect on future students.”

Finch-Smith is equally inspired by Molitor’s budding potential as a mathematical researcher, and after working with him in classes and through research, she remains impressed by his ability to know what kinds of questions to ask and see the natural next question when working on a project.

“I have worked with more than fifty summer research students during my time here at W&L, and Austin’s level of autonomy at this stage of his research career is unusually high,” Finch-Smith said. “This autonomy, in conjunction with his ability to pose interesting yet answerable questions, indicate to me that he is on the path to a strong research career in the years to come.”

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