"Elizabeth is an outstanding student and her academic performance at The University of South Dakota has been stellar," noted Ranjit Koodali, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical chemistry at USD. "To the best of my knowledge, there is no other undergraduate chemistry major that matches her cumulative GPA (4.0) and her breadth of research experience."
Research in the field of environmental science appeals most to Nettleton as she sets her sights on the future. The daughter of Don and Betty Nettleton of Sturgis, wants to earn her Ph.D. in environmental chemistry in order to conduct research at a national laboratory someday. Thanks to scholarships like the Goldwater – one of eight she's earned while an undergraduate at USD – Nettleton is moving closer and closer to that career objective.
"You get a lot of support from the chemistry department," said Nettleton, who is also a physics and mathematics minor at USD. "It's a really intimate department where everybody knows you and everybody's willing to help out."
It's her willingness to go beyond the classroom and her diligence in the laboratory that helped her to become USD's eighth Goldwater Scholar since 1988. Koodali describes Nettleton as a "highly organized" student "with a penchant for performing her work very systematically and very diligently."
"Liz is organized, conscientious and methodical – all essential characteristics for both a scientific career and a successful Goldwater application," said Susan Hackemer, associate director of the honors program and coordinator of competitive scholarships at USD. "It's been a joy and a privilege to watch her grow in self-assurance as well as skill and talent."
Her desire to pursue environmental chemistry as a career has also been bolstered by research outside of the USD laboratories, including a 2006 summer research program at the University of California-Irvine as well as an opportunity to conduct research at the prestigious Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, IL. this summer after declining an invitation to attend National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs offered by Cornell University, Colombia University and the University of Minnesota.
"The fortunate part about being a student at USD is the faculty-to-student ratio," Nettleton explained. "That element makes it easier to get involved in research programs and, thankfully, I've been able to take advantage of that opportunity."
Recipients of the Goldwater Scholarship receive up to $7,500 per year to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board. This year, 317 scholarships were awarded on the basis of academic merit. More than 1,100 mathematics, science and engineering students, nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide, applied for the scholarship program, which is 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. In its 19-year history, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation has awarded 5,202 scholarships worth approximately $51 million.