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Undergraduate Mia Zhang wins Goldwater Scholarship

Photo of Mia ZhangMia Zhang, an electrical and computer engineering undergraduate at The Ohio State University, just earned the most prestigious national award for students in STEM.

Zhang, who is advised by mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Jonathan Song, is among four Ohio State honors students recognized by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. 

The university reported this is the second time in university history in which all four nominees won; the last occurrence was 2007. Juniors Caroline Jipa, Thomas Porter, Vilas Winstein and Zhang were all named 2019 Goldwater Scholars. Each receives an award to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500.

Even at a young age, Zhang said, her academic drive was motivated by a simple curiosity over how technology works – and more importantly, how it can benefit society as a whole. 

“I have always been passionate about math and science, and ever since I was young, I always questioned how things worked,” she said. “Witnessing the evolution of technology and how it completely changed our lives as I was growing up intrigued me, which eventually motivated me to study engineering.”

Zhang said it's the real-life applications of technologies, which continue to motivate her professional goals to discover how to improve and change people's lives in a positive way. This is what led her to the Ohio State electrical and computer engineering program.

“I especially chose electrical engineering because of its ubiquity in our lives, as many things involve electricity,” Zhang said. “I was excited to study ECE and find out my specific interest.”

Zhang is a junior in the program, looking to earn an MD/PhD degree in biomedical engineering in order to conduct translational and clinical research using micro/nanoscale technology for medicine and biology. Her research advisor Jonathan Song, shared his glowing comments about Mia's achievement.

"Mia is truly an exceptional student in terms of her intelligence and drive for excellence. I am delighted that the Goldwater Foundation recognizes the same qualities in Mia and awarded her this most illustrious scholarship," Song said. "Her future could not be brighter."

Zhang’s advice for her fellow students is to stay curious and motivated in their chosen paths.

“I would encourage everyone to explore various opportunities to gain new experiences and to believe in your hard work and commitment. There are many resources and programs that will help you discover your passion in local, national and international communities,” she said.

Asking questions from people in their community, such as peers, upperclassmen and teachers was essential for her growth. 

“Meeting new people who have the same interests and goals as I do, hearing their experiences, and receiving advice on how to navigate in the field of engineering had been very helpful to me by establishing a support system,” Zhang said.

It is estimated more than 5,000 students applied for their university's nomination for the award. However, each institution may only nominate four students. In total, 496 scholarships were awarded to sophomores and juniors on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,223 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by colleges and universities nationwide. 

Since the award's inception in 1986, Ohio State has produced 60 Goldwater Scholars. 

For more information on the Goldwater Scholarship, please visit goldwater.scholarsapply.org.

Students interested in applying for the Goldwater Scholarship or other nationally competitive awards should contact fellowships@osu.edu.

by Ryan Horns, communications specialist in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering