Physics undergraduate wins prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

Elizabeth Yunerman
Elizabeth Yunerman

Elizabeth Yunerman, a junior studying physics and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, has been named a 2020 Goldwater Scholar by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

The Goldwater Scholarship is a prestigious national competition for undergraduates in the fields of mathematics, science, and engineering. The scholarships provide up to $7,500 per year for sophomores and juniors from across the country to cover the costs of tuition, fees, books, and other expenses.

The foundation awarded 396 scholarships this year, selecting the scholars on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,343 students nominated by representatives of colleges and universities nationwide.

Yunerman has been doing research on planet formation with Ruth Murray-Clay, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics, and graduate student Diana Powell. Her project addresses one of the major outstanding questions in planet formation: How do the building blocks of planets grow from cosmic dust to “planetesimals” with sizes larger than meters without first being destroyed by collisions or drifting into their host stars?

Yunerman is currently co-president of the Women in Physics & Astrophysics (WiPA) group at UC Santa Cruz. In her sophomore year, she was the outreach officer for WiPA, organizing events for elementary, middle, and high school students and creating materials, such as lesson plans and outlines, to be used by future outreach officers. She has also led workshops and done peer mentoring for other undergraduates.

Yunerman plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics in preparation for a career doing research in planetary astrophysics.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater. The scholarship program was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields