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HUNTINGTON — Marshall University student Maria “Ellie” White has been named one of 396 college students to receive a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

The scholarship, a partnership between the Department of Defense National Defense Education Program and the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, is one of the highest honors undergraduates in STEM fields can receive.

The award offers a $7,500 scholarship for the junior and senior years of college. White is only the second Marshall University winner of the scholarship, and the first recipient in 20 years.

She was the only student from West Virginia selected in the competition. A physics major, she plans to earn her Ph.D. in astrophysics studying astrobiology, radio astronomy instrumentation, and SETI. She aspires to work as a staff scientist at an observatory.

White has conducted research at Green Bank Observatory, and presented at multiple national and regional conferences.

“I was thrilled and shocked when I found out that I had won the Goldwater Scholarship, but most of all honored and grateful to be able to represent Marshall and West Virginia,” White said in a release. “I am so lucky to be a student at Marshall and to have the support of faculty in the Physics department, like my advisors Dr. Jon Saken and Dr. Maria Babiuc-Hamilton, who have made my time at Marshall so much richer and full of learning. I am so thankful for them and for my mentors at the Green Bank Observatory and beyond, like my first research advisor, the late Dr. Richard Prestage, who had such an impact on my passion for research.”

White recently spoke at Marshall’s TedX Conference and is a student in Marshall’s Honors College. Honors College Dean Dr. Nicola LoCascio is well acquainted with White’s successes.

“I am delighted that the Goldwater selection committee recognized the exceptional talents of Ellie White. Ellie is a fantastic student and has demonstrated her commitment to science, Marshall University and her community,” LoCascio said. “She is so deserving of this award.”

Established in 1989, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship has awarded over 8,000 scholarships. Their stated mission is to “identify and support college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming this Nation’s next generation of research leaders in these fields.”

For more information on the scholarship, visit or contact Mallory Carpenter, program manager of Marshall’s Office of National Scholarships, by email at

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