Two Auburn Engineering honors students named Goldwater Scholars

Published: Apr 11, 2023 8:00 AM

By T. Wade Berry

Two Auburn Engineering students, Ayden Kemp and Maggie Nelson, are now Barry M. Goldwater Scholars — an honor recently announced and bestowed on only 413 students nationwide. The scholarship is widely considered the most prestigious award in the United States for undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

“These three exceptional students embody the intellectual curiosity, vision and tenacity that the Auburn University community holds in highest regard,” said Tiffany Sippial, director of the Honors College. “We could not be more proud of their accomplishments and look forward to celebrating their future successes.” 

Kemp, a senior in the Honors College, is majoring in aerospace engineering and biosystems engineering with a bioprocess option in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. His research is titled, “Co-Pyrolysis of Biomass and Waste Plastics for the Production of Biofuels.“ Through his research, Kemp is investigating the practicality of heating mixed waste streams that include both organic material and plastic wastes in an oxygen-less environment to break them down into smaller components for the production of biofuels.

Kemp works with Sushil Adhikari, a professor within biosystems engineering.

“I would like to thank Dr. Adhikari and the other amazing professors at Auburn who have helped me with my research and academic goals and prepared me for winning the Goldwater Scholarship,” said Kemp. “A special thank you to Dr. Whatley and the Honors College for their help in preparing and editing my application materials.”

Nelson, a senior in the Honors College from Birmingham, Alabama, is majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in materials engineering, philosophy and sustainability studies within the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts, respectively. Her research is titled, “Effects of Recycling on Polystyrene Shape Memory Polymers for In-Situ Resource Utilization.” Through her research, Nelson is aiming to establish sustainable material infrastructures for future aerospace developments. Nelson works with Russell W. Mailen in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, and she collaborates with Maria Soledad Peresin and Diego Gomez-Maldonado, both in the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment.

“I am honored and humbled to have been chosen as one of this year’s Goldwater Scholarship recipients,” said Nelson. “I am truly thankful that I am able to do what I love through research and have been immensely supported by my community at Auburn and now Goldwater. I became involved in research my sophomore year of college and was immediately absorbed by the passion of those working around me like Dr. Russell Mailen and Dr. Soledad Peresin. It is through them that I have been able to learn how to become a better researcher. Their support and encouragement to explore my interests in research, from recycled shape memory polymers to responsive coatings for artificial photosynthesis, have been invaluable for my growth as a student, researcher and person.”

They are joined by Cameron Tice, a junior in the Honors College from Auburn, who is majoring in biomedical sciences and minoring in psychology in the College of Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Liberal Arts, respectively. His research is titled, “Understanding the Physical and Mental Health Outcomes of Court-Involved Youth.”

Through his research, Tice studies the assessment, treatment and post-rehabilitation health outcomes of court-involved adolescents. During his time at Auburn, Tice has been specifically interested in understanding the impact of substance use and parental family structure on adolescents. Tice works with Kelli Thompson in the department of Psychology. 

“I am just incredibly thankful for those who’ve helped guide me to where I am today,” said Tice. “Beyond my professors at Auburn, who have poured their time and energy into my studies, I would like to thank my parents for their love, Katie for all of her edits and Drew Bagwell for being a good biology teacher.”

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program was established to provide scholarships to outstanding students who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. Each scholarship covers eligible expenses up to a maximum of $7,500 annually for undergraduate tuition, fees, books and housing. In awarding scholarships, the foundation of trustees considers the nominee’s field of study and career objectives along with the extent to which that individual has the commitment and potential to make a significant contribution to the field of science or engineering.

“I am deeply proud of Ayden, Maggie and Cam, and I am delighted that the Goldwater committee recognized the extraordinary work ethic, sophisticated research and — frankly — dazzling brilliance of these three undergraduate scholars,” said Laura Whatley, scholarship and research coordinator for the Honors College. ”I cannot fathom what the future holds for these students, but I know they will make our world a better place — they already do.”

The National Prestigious Scholarship office at Auburn University, located in the Honors College, works closely with students to identify and pursue prestigious scholarships and other national and international awards through information sessions and one-on-one support during the application process.

Media Contact: T. Wade Berry,, 334.844.5832
Ayden Kemp and Maggie Nelson are just two of this year's 413 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars nationwide.

Ayden Kemp and Maggie Nelson are just two of this year's 413 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars nationwide.

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