Nina Finley
Photo courtesy of Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences (SAAS)

Written by

Nina Finley ’17, a biology and environmental studies major from Seattle, has been named a 2016-2017 Goldwater Scholar by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.

Established by Congress in 1986 in honor of former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, the Goldwater Scholarship is the most prestigious undergraduate award given in the sciences. It rewards students with “outstanding potential” who plan to pursue a PhD in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.

"I'm honored and excited by the news," said Finley. "I owe a huge thanks to everyone who helped me along the way, from my friend Hannah who won the award last year and inspired me to apply, to my research mentors Dr. Lesanna Lahner at the Seattle Aquarium and Dr. Nick Tolimieri at NOAA, to Keith [Raether] and Professor Juhasz who advised and nominated me."

Schools can only nominate four students applying for the Goldwater Scholarship, and competition is intense—this year, 1,150 sophomores and juniors from more than 400 colleges and universities nationwide were nominated, with only 252 selected.

According to Director of Fellowships and Grants Keith Raether, this number includes the best and brightest from big research institutions like MIT, Stanford and Caltech. Finley, who intends to study the relationship between organismal and environmental health in near shore marine ecosystems, is one of just four recipients from Washington State. 

“I have the pleasure of working with students as early as their first year at Whitman, but never before they arrive. Never until Nina,” Raether said. “I knew her before she set foot on campus. She wrote to me out of the blue to find out if and how soon we could look into specific fellowships that aligned with her goals and career plans.”

Last year, Finley earned the Hollings Scholarship and the Udall Scholarship; she was one of only eight sophomores in the country to win the latter. She is also currently a finalist for the Truman Scholarship. This summer, she will conduct field work on ocean acidification and sea star wasting disease as part of her internship with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies in Homer, Alaska. 

The Goldwater Scholarship covers eligible expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

“Nina has all the academic brilliance and commitment to scientific research that Goldwater preferences,” said Raether. “She’s intentional and tireless in her commitments.”