St. Olaf College | News

Student awarded Goldwater Scholarship

MellemStefan375x275St. Olaf College student Stefan Mellem ’14 has been awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2013-14 academic year.

Mellem was chosen from a field of 1,107 applicants to receive one of the 271 scholarships worth up to $7,500. St. Olaf student Stefan Lemke ’14 also received an honorable mention from the Goldwater Foundation this year.

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, 32 St. Olaf students have received the prestigious award.

Mellem, who is majoring in physics, mathematics, and computer science, has been involved in various research projects during his time at St. Olaf. He worked with Professor of Physics Amy Kolan to redesign a course on simulation-based approaches to chaotic and other complex systems, from wobbling frisbees to fractals. The two concluded the project with a seminar presentation at the University of Chicago.

Mellem spent the summer after his sophomore year working at the Molecular Physics Laboratory at the Stanford Research Institute in California, where he helped develop an instrument called the Compact Echelle Spectrograph for Aeronomical Research that is used to study airglow effects like the auroras.

Recently, Mellem has been working on a robotic collaboration with Associate Professor of Physics Jason Engbrecht and Associate Professor of Computer Science Olaf Hall-Holt as part of St. Olaf’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research. Their team has been designing and testing a vision feedback system to improve the accuracy of a relatively cheap robotic arm. They hope to create a system that allows high-precision robotics to be accessible at a reasonable cost.

This summer Mellem will participate in a research program at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which houses the world’s largest telescope. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics and then go into research that would enable him to tap into his programming and computer science background.

“There’s no way I’d be where I am now – or even anywhere near it – without a huge amount of help from fellow students, researchers, and professors alike,” says Mellem. “Particularly, my research advisors have been an absolutely incredible asset to draw from for knowledge and advice.”