St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf student awarded Goldwater scholarship

BehnkeMegan200x200St. Olaf College student Megan Behnke ’16 has been awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2015-16 academic year.

Behnke was chosen from a field of 1,206 applicants to receive one of the 260 scholarships worth up to $7,500.

The Goldwater Scholarships are awarded each year to students who have shown significant achievement and potential in the fields of mathematics, science, and engineering. Since 1995, 33 St. Olaf students have received the prestigious award.

Last summer Behnke participated in the Polaris Project, a multifaceted program that includes a field course and research experience for undergraduate students from around the world. As part of the program, Behnke spent a month at the Northeast Science Station in Cherskiy, Russia, where she studied the breakdown of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) released by melting permafrost.

Last fall Behnke received the American Geophysical Union’s prestigious Lumley award. As part of her award, Behnke presented her summer 2014 research findings at the AGU Fall Meeting, which is the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world.

In March Behnke presented her research at the American Chemical Society meeting. She was the only undergraduate presenter in her session, which was attended by top DOC scientists from around the country.

This summer Behnke will return to Siberia to study how DOC from thawing permafrost is broken down by light. She will also investigate how light processing affects microbes’ ability to consume newly freed DOC.

In the fall she will take a semester of leave from St. Olaf to participate in the new Semester at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Program.

“I will be taking graduate-level oceanography courses and doing research on how iron melting out of Greenland glaciers affects ocean chemistry in the North Atlantic,” says Behnke. “I am excited to explore another possible direction for my future work.”

Behnke, a chemistry major, is a research assistant in two different labs at St. Olaf and is also an active member of the college’s Theater Department. In February she performed in St. Olaf’s production of Cymbeline, a late Shakespearean romance.