Tech Student Wins Goldwater Scholarship

By Mark Wilcox | Published

Michigan Tech undergraduate Peter Winegar, shown here in Cesky Krulov, Czech Republic, is the University's 10th winner of the Goldwater Scholarship. Winegar, currently studying abroad in Prague, is a third-year Chemistry major from Lino Lakes, Minnesota.
Michigan Tech undergraduate Peter Winegar, shown here in Cesky Krulov, Czech Republic, is the University's 10th winner of the Goldwater Scholarship. Winegar, currently studying abroad in Prague, is a third-year Chemistry major from Lino Lakes, Minnesota.

A third-year chemistry major at Michigan Technological University won a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Peter Winegar is the 10th recipient of a Goldwater Scholarship in Tech’s  history.

Goldwater scholarships—established by Congress to honor the late Arizona Senator and administered by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation—are based on academic merit, research experience and intent to pursue a career in science, engineering or mathematics.  The purpose of the program is to provide a continuing source of highly-qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.

Will Cantrell, associate professor of physics and Michigan Tech’s representative for the program, calls the Goldwater Scholarship the pre-eminent award for undergraduates in STEM. “It’s an achievement simply to be nominated; receiving the scholarship is held up as an exemplar,” he said.

Tess Ahlborn, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Lorendana Valenzano, assistant professor of chemistry wrote letters in support of Winegar's nomination.

In her letter Ahlborn said she has no doubt Winegar “is capable and motivated to complete just about anything that he sets out to do.”

Ahlborn is the primary faculty advisor of Michigan Tech’s Concrete Canoe team, in which Winegar leads the structural concrete mix design committee. “As the team leader this year for the most important component of a concrete canoe, Peter was a natural with a kind and gentle demeanor,” Ahlborn wrote. In the letter she called Winegar “motivated, self guided, timely and dependable.”

Research, Teaching in his Future

Winegar lists his career goal as earning a PhD in Chemistry, conducting research in physical chemistry and teaching at the university level.

For an undergraduate, he is already well traveled.  “I spent a summer at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland) in a Polymers REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates), “ Winegar said. “I worked in a polymer/chemistry lab on two projects; developing a virus detector from self assembled layers of polymers and testing the anti-corrosion properties of hyper-branched polymers.”

Last summer he participated in a National Science Foundation Summer Research Program at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

 Winegar is currently studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, and it's not the last time the Lino Lakes, Minnesota native will study in Europe. This summer he’ll be working at the Paul-Dude Institut in Berlin, Germany as part of the German Academic Exchange Service’s (DAAD) Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) program. “I think the project will be in applied physics, characterizing films of graphene and boron nitride,” he said.

At Michigan Tech Winegar again worked in computational chemistry in Valenzano’s lab.“My project has been to model the interaction between nanocars and a graphene surface. Instead of being scaled-down machines, nanocars are the equivalent of machines constructed from just a few hundred atoms. They’ve been experimentally made in a few labs around the world.”

In her letter, Valentano wrote that Winegar's contribution to her research group was significant. "Peter produced and quantitatively analyzed a very valuable amount of new knowledge in this field ... this gave him the opportunity to complete his project by building the full nano car and assess the properties of the overall machinery with respect to its components."

Winegar says he’s “honored to be recognized with the Goldwater Scholarship for the work I’ve put towards undergraduate research and education.”

 John Mateja, president of the Goldwater Foundation said that selecting the sholars and honorable mentions was no easy task. Out of the 1,150 nominations received for the 2016 competition, 252 scholars were named and 256 honorable mentions were awarded.

In addition to Michigan Tech, students from six other Michigan schools were named Goldwater cholars: The University of Michigan, Michigan State, Central Michigan, Hope College, Kalamazoo College and Calvin College.

The full list of Scholars and Honorable Mentions is available at

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries around the world. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our beautiful campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.