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Raithel '15, Rekdal '15 Earn Goldwater Scholarships

April 21, 2014

Northfield, Minn.––Carleton College students Carolyn Raithel ’15 (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Vayu Rekdal ‘15 (Los Angeles) have been awarded Goldwater Scholarships for the 2014-15 academic year.

Raithel, a physics major, hopes to earn a PhD in astrophysics and one day conduct research at a national observatory. She works closely with Joel Weisberg, Herman and Gertrude Mosier Stark Professor of Physics and Astronomy, studying pulsars, which are very small, extremely dense, rapidly spinning neutron stars.

“Because they are such extreme astrophysical objects, they are a really useful way to test important physical laws,” explains Raithel. “My work with [Professor Weisberg] has been focused on a discovery that I made…when I noticed a strange trend in the signals of several well-known pulsars. What we're seeing is an anomalous rotation of the polarized pulsar signal that has never before been modeled, and we've been working to create a model of the phenomenon ever since.”

Raithel’s research with Weisberg also took the two to the Australia Telescope National Facility in Sydney, Australia, where they collaborated with pulsar astronomers from all over the world. Raithel plans to return to Sydney for eight weeks this summer to do further pulsar research. Outside of her studies at Carleton, Raithel play the oboe and English horn in the College Orchestra and serves as an admissions tour guide.

Rekdal, a biology major originally from Sweden, plans to pursue a PhD in nutritional biochemistry, and then focus his research in biochemistry with an eye towards problems in public health and nutrition. “My scientific work has focused on the interplay between gut microbes, diet, and our overall health,” says Rekdal. “Researching the gut microbiome really stimulates my interests in cooking and biochemistry. In many ways, the gut microbiome is a powerful bioreactor that has capabilities to transform ordinary foods into molecules that profoundly affect our overall health. Thus, understanding the molecular interactions between the gut microbiome and the human host has wide implications for understanding even the most basic consequences of our diet.”

Rekdal spent last summer as an undergraduate research fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he investigated how interactions between dietary components and the human body’s hundred trillion gut microbial habitants contribute to common GI disorders. This coming summer he has accepted a research fellowship position at the Department of Chemical Biology at Harvard University, where he will explore how diet can be used to manipulate and control how gut microbes metabolize cardiac drugs.

Rekdal is the founder and president of Carleton’s student cooking club, Firebellies, which touts more than 800 members. He has also worked with two local school districts to teach cooking skills to teenage boys, using lesson plans developed through an independent study in collaboration with Carleton professor of chemistry Deborah Gross.

The two Carleton College Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,166 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. One hundred seventy-two of the Scholars are men, 111 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a PhD as their degree objective. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. The scholarship program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater 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.

Since its first award in 1989, the Foundation has bestowed 7,163 scholarships worth approximately 46 million dollars. The Trustees plan to award about three hundred scholarships for the 2015–2016 academic year.