Nashville, TN

Two Vanderbilt students named as the 2020-21 Goldwater Scholars

Lenny Schumacher

NASHVILLE, TN — Good news from the Vanderbilt University! Rising senior Minna Apostolova and rising junior Joseph Sexton have been named the 2021 Barry A. Goldwater Scholars. This award is the nation's most competitive scholarship for undergraduate STEM students who show exceptional promise of becoming the nation's next generation of research leaders.

Goldwater Scholarships contribute up to $7,500 per year toward educational expenses for the remainder of a student's undergraduate career. This year, around 409 college students across the United States were selected as Goldwater Scholarships awardees from a pool of more than 5,000 nominees.

Apostolova, a biochemistry and chemical biology major, became interested in the Goldwater Scholarship after attending an informative session hosted by the Vanderbilt Career Center during her freshman year. She said that cancer had affected several family members, so she promised herself that she would 'cure cancer' when she was 7.

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Minna ApostolovaVanderbilt University/news.vanderbilt.edu

"Later, I joined my high school's science research team to take my first steps toward accomplishing this lofty goal, and that experience was my first real exposure to the field of scientific research," said Apostolova.

Sexton, a psychology and medicine, health and society major, will center his scholarly work around the study of depressive-like behaviors. Besides an Goldwater Scholarships awardee, Sexton is also an Atlanta Lanier Scholarship recipient.

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Joseph SextonVanderbilt University/news.vanderbilt.edu

"I started looking into systems and molecular neuroscience behind mood, and, by my senior year, was doing research at Georgia State University with Professor Angela Mabb on depressive-like behaviors in a transgenic mouse line," Sexton said.

He also added that Professor Mabb has been incredibly motivational to his continued ambitions in science, even as his transfer to Vanderbilt shifted his research focus. Sexton will study the interactions of age, race, marital status and sex-related issues to suicide rates, especially in elderly Americans, using open data from the CDC.

"There is something truly captivating about scientific discovery, and the Goldwater is evidence that I can pursue this for the rest of my life," Sexton said.

Sexton hopes that his work will benefit the society in preventing suicides, societal effect change in health care and scientific practice, and answer several currently enigmatic questions. He's excited about it.

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