Aaron Sandoval

Aaron Sandoval

Aaron Sandoval was examining a mouse’s foot muscle through a microscope in his research lab when he received an email that he won a $15,000 scholarship.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to win,” Sandoval said. “I was so excited.”

The 19-year-old UF biology sophomore found out he won the The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation’s scholarship March 30. Another UF student, Andrew Sack, a 21-year-old UF mathematics junior, was an honorable mention. Both students are in UF’s Honors Program.

The Goldwater Foundation gives scholarships to undergraduate sophomores and juniors pursuing research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. According to Goldwater’s website, 211 students out of the 1,280 students who applied won scholarships, and 281 were named honorable mentions, who are recognized but don’t receive any money.

The scholarship application included an online questionnaire, a research essay and three recommendation letters.

Honors Program associate director Regan Garner said she was proud of Sandoval and Sack.

“The Goldwater Scholarship is one of the most prestigious undergraduate awards,” Garner said. “It speaks to the quality of not only our students, but our faculty.”

Since 2008, 18 UF students have received the award and 17 have been named honorable mentions. Garner said the Honors Program gives students an advantage because it immerses them in research.

For his application, Sandoval said he wrote about his research on cell regeneration.

Sack said he wrote about his research with math algorithms. This was the second year Sack applied for the scholarship, having not receiving anything the previous year.

Although Sack didn’t win, he said he was happy to be recognized and looks forward to applying for similar opportunities for graduate school.

“It’s not the same as the scholarship,” Sack said. “But my parents and the Honors Program were happy.”