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Vance Fowler awarded Goldwater Scholarship

Fowler studies the formation of aerosols in the atmosphere that form clouds.

Last updated April 21, 2023

By Tina Underwood

Vance Fowler, a Furman University junior and chemistry major from Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, has been awarded a 2023 Goldwater Scholarship, which honors top-performing students who show research aptitude and who plan on a research career in selected STEM fields.

white man wearing golf shirt

Vance Fowler ’24.

“I wasn’t expecting to win it. I was pretty shocked. It took me a minute to process the news,” said Fowler who will use the $7,500 award toward tuition.

Collaborating with mentor and Chemistry Professor George Shields, Fowler studies atmospheric chemistry using computational chemistry methods.

“I use computer simulations to predict the formation mechanism of aerosols in the atmosphere, which will improve our understanding of global warming,” he explained. “I’m also working on a study that models water clusters, research that will build on what we know about the behavior of water molecules and help us refine our computational methods,” he added.

“As the world gets warmer, more water evaporates and enters the atmosphere,” Shields said. “Vance has worked on how small molecules in the atmosphere combine with water to make the aerosol particles that eventually form clouds. He has a particularly good sense of three-dimensional structure, which allows him to sort out the differences between molecular clusters that look very similar.

“Vance is one of many talented students working in my lab. He has already published three papers, and he will be working on a couple more this summer,” Shields said.

Despite Fowler’s accomplishments, he still wrestled with a bit of imposter syndrome.

“It’s easy to think that you’re not good enough, especially when you work with so many smart people,” Fowler said. “But winning this award is evidence that I’m good at what I do and that I belong here. It’s nice to be recognized for the work I’ve done.”

“Doing research has changed Vance’s goals,” Shields said. “And now he intends to obtain a Ph.D. in chemistry. He is on a path to becoming a remarkable scientist.”

Fowler appreciates the support from the Furman Department of Chemistry, especially Shields, Fowler’s research adviser who nominated him for the award. Shields, winner of the 2022 CUR-Goldwater Scholars Faculty Mentor Award, has shepherded 15 Goldwater Scholars across his academic career.

Fowler is also grateful to faculty members Paul Wagenknecht ’86 and Lauren Jarocha for their mentorship and assistance with the application process.

The Goldwater Scholarship is made possible through an ongoing partnership with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs and the Goldwater Foundation, which was established in 1986.

Selected this year from a pool of 5,000 college sophomores and juniors across the nation, Fowler is among 413 students to receive the award named for Senator Barry Goldwater. In total, 30 Furman University students have been honored with the Goldwater Scholarship.

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