Links in this article are preserved for historical purposes, but the destination sources may have changed.

Friday, April 14, 2017
jacob isbell portrait
Jacob Isbell

Jacob Isbell, a member of the University of Iowa Honors Program and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has been named a 2017 Goldwater Scholar. The Goldwater Scholarship was established by Congress in 1986 in honor of Senator Barry M. Goldwater, to challenge and support outstanding young scholar researchers who are pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Goldwater is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

Isbell, of Garrison, Iowa, is a junior studying astronomy and physics with minors in computer science, mathematics, and geology. Isbell is currently conducting research on galactic evolution—specifically the effects of galactic collisions in the early universe—with Hai Fu, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy

Fu offered this perspective on Isbell’s knowledge and skill: “Astronomy research often relies on computers to perform detailed measurements of large data sets. In his current project of binary quasars mined from large radio surveys, Jacob has demonstrated remarkable computer programming skills and a deep understanding of the literature. I have no doubt that in the not-too-distant future, we will be reading about his discoveries in the national news.”

Isbell, who will receive up to $7,500 in funding for tuition, fees, books, and room and board, plans to pursue a PhD in astrophysics and a Master of Science in computer science upon graduation.

Goldwater 2017 by the numbers:

1,286 applicants nominated by 470 institutions
240 scholars named
307 honorable mentions awarded

133 scholars identify as male, 103 as female

22 are studying mathematics
153 came from the physical and biosciences
51 are pursuing degrees in engineering
14 are computer science majors

Virtually all of them intend to obtain a PhD.

The Goldwater Foundation also recognized UI junior Lance Heady with an honorable mention. Heady, of Quincy, Illinois, is pursuing degrees in biochemistry and neurobiology with minors in psychology, chemistry, and clinical and translational science. He is conducting research with Andrew Pieper, professor in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics in the UI Carver College of Medicine, on Huntington’s disease and potential therapeutics which alter the proteomic causes of the disease. Heady, an ICRU Ambassador and resident assistant for the UI STEM Scholars LLC, will be continuing his work on neurodegeneration this summer at MIT through the Amgen Scholars program.

Isbell and Heady worked with UI Honors Program Director of Scholar Development Kelly Thornburg, the UI’s Undergraduate Fellowships Committee, and an invaluable community of faculty and research mentors during the development of their application materials.

Since 1989, 53 undergraduate researchers from the University of Iowa have been named Goldwater Scholars. Isbell and Heady join UI 2016 Goldwater awardees Rae Corrigan, Erin Maier, Nicholas McCarty, and Tom Werner on campus.

For more information about the UI scholars or applying for nomination, visit or contact Kelly Thornburg at