Kent, Leonard and Murnion named 2014 Goldwater Scholars

In its history MSU has produced 61 Goldwater scholars, three of whom received the award this year. The Goldwater scholarship is a prestigious national scholarship awarded to students studying in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field.

This year, MSU students Katie Kent, McClain Leonard and Connor Murnion and MSU-Billings student Elizabeth Mullins, were named Goldwater scholars. Mullins is the first recipient of the award in MSU-Billings’ history. Additionally, MSU sophomore biochemistry major Cassia Wagner received a Goldwater scholar honorable mention.

MSU’s Goldwater scholars are passionate individuals in and out of the classroom. Kent is a junior from Billings. She is majoring in chemical and biological engineering and she works in a lab studying rheology, focusing on nanoparticles in biofilms. Growing up with parents who both had scientific careers, Kent knew from a young age she wanted to be a doctor. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school. She eventually hopes to practice as a trauma surgeon because she believes she would enjoy and excel in a fast-paced, high-stress environment. Kent recognizes her role models as her mentors in the lab: Dr. Jennifer Brown, Dr. Joe Seymour and Dr. Sarah Codd. Kent loves the outdoors and enjoys participating in outdoor activities in her free time, such as biking, backpacking and climbing.

Leonard is also studying chemical engineering. He is a junior from Post Falls, Idaho. Leonard studies high-temperature corrosion and the development of materials which are corrosion-resistant in high-temperature situations. He works in the High Temperature Materials Laboratory with faculty members Dr. Paul Gannon and Dr. Roberta Amendola. Leonard has especially been inspired by Lik Ming Aw, a graduate student with whom he works closely in the lab. Leonard said he has learned a lot from Aw’s attention to detail, which he can apply that to his own work.

In addition to being passionate about science, Leonard is interested in economics. He hopes to combine economics with his career. Leonard enjoys following the news and he spends his free time getting information from various news sources.

Murnion is a junior studying cell biology and neuroscience at MSU, originally from Helena. Murnion is interested in the brain, and he decided to focus on neuroscience in addition to psychology, in which he is minoring, because it gives a more concrete, scientific explanation of how the brain works. Murnion recognizes Carl Sagan as one of the role models who inspired him to study science. At MSU, Murnion works in the lab of Dr. Francis Lefcort studying a genetic disease called Familial Disautonomia.

Murnion has many additional interests. He has recently become interested in ecology and would like to find a way to incorporate that subject into his education. Murnion and a group of friends hope to ultimately develop a school which utilizes a unique educational philosophy to teach young children. Murnion enjoys backpacking and would eventually like to backpack the Continental Divide or the Appalachian Trail. He is currently writing a novel.

Kent, Leonard and Murnion are three of only 283 students across the nation to receive this scholarship, continuing MSU’s tradition of success in producing Goldwater Scholars.

Editor’s Note: Cassia Wagner is the News Editor for the MSU Exponent.