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St. Olaf student named Goldwater Scholar

Paola Diaz '25 has been awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a prestigious national competition for undergraduates who have shown significant achievement and potential in the fields of mathematics, science, and engineering.
Paola Diaz ’25 has been awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a prestigious national competition for undergraduates who have shown significant achievement and potential in the fields of mathematics, science, and engineering.

St. Olaf College student Paola Diaz ’25 has been awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2023-24 academic year.

The Goldwater Scholarship is a prestigious national competition for undergraduates who have shown significant achievement and potential in the fields of mathematics, science, and engineering. The scholarships provide up to $7,500 per year for sophomores and juniors from across the country.

Since 1995, 37 St. Olaf students have been named Goldwater Scholars.

Diaz is majoring in biology and environmental studies, and has conducted research in several labs at St. Olaf. 

Diaz’s primary work has been in the lab of Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Physics Anne Gothmann. Her research focuses on corals as a tool for paleoclimate reconstruction. Since the rate that corals build their skeletons depends on water conditions, corals can be used to gain understanding about past ocean temperatures. 

“I most enjoy how what is seemingly a simple animal can provide such an immense variety of knowledge,” Diaz says. “This work is valuable to me as I am able to contribute new knowledge to an ever-changing world. I am able to provide a foundation for what’s to come and how drastic these future climate changes will be. It is also important to me since as climate continues to change, it disproportionately affects minority communities. Being a part of this research allows me to give back to my own communities.”

“This work is valuable to me as I am able to contribute new knowledge to an ever-changing world.”

Paola Diaz ’25

Diaz has also conducted research with Assistant Professor of Biology Takashi Maie on functional morphology patterns across waterfall-climbing fish. Understanding similarities in fin and bone structure can help show how these fish are able to climb heights, contributing to their conservation. 

On campus, Diaz is involved with the Food Recovery Network at St. Olaf, an organization that works to help reduce food waste and support the Northfield community by working to redistribute unused food from the campus dining hall.

After graduating, Diaz hopes to attend veterinary school and earn both a DVM and Ph.D. She is drawn to animal science because of the opportunities to support both animal and human health. 

“The animal science field continues to not only help the welfare of animals but the livelihoods of people as medicine utilizes the knowledge produced from animals,” she says. “This can further advance my goal of giving back to my communities and those who are unable to advocate properly within health, finance, and climate issues.”