When Katherine Schutt '14 was named the first-ever Goldwater Scholar from Saint Michael's College, she exceeded expectations - something she's been doing frequently during her time as a student.
"Katie Schutt performs at a level you see in PhD students, with her academic prowess, her research initiative, her sticking with a goal till it's met, her independence," said her chemistry professor Shane Lamos '00. "You don't often see that in an undergraduate."
Katherine Schutt's recognition as a Goldwater Scholar is the most prestigious recognition you can get as an undergraduate.
- Professor Shane Lamos '00
The Goldwater Scholarship is considered the most competitive and most beneficial recognition for an undergraduate science student in the United States.
Named in honor of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, the scholarship, established by Congress, aims "to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields."
In urging Schutt to apply, Lamos knew that other outstanding students had applied unsuccessfully in the past. "Professor Lamos said it was unlikely that I would succeed - that made me really want to go for it," said Schutt.
In early April, Lamos learned that Schutt had been named one of the 271 Goldwater winners from across the U.S. for 2013. Most winners were from major research universities. The scholarship provides $7,500 and an advantage in getting into top graduate programs and in landing research grants.
"Katie is an emerging scholar and has a level of tenacity towards learning that is inspiring to witness," said Lamos. "The award speaks to where we've come with research with our students. This is the most prestigious recognition you can get as an undergraduate."
Schutt, a chemistry major with math and biology minors, used her 2012 summer research project on mixed-isotope labeling in breast cancer as the genesis of her Goldwater application. Her research allows comparison between healthy individuals and those with the disease. "We compared chemical profiles of the two groups," she explained, "and looked at differences, so we could see what proteins had been up-regulated or down-regulated in the disease state."
Schutt, whose grandmother died of breast cancer, is focused on finding a cure. She considered becoming a doctor, but now she aims to study cancer on a molecular level, seeking its causes.
"The development of a cure will depend on further elucidating this link... between HDL cholesterol concentration and breast cancer development using the method of mixed-isotope labeling (MIL) coupled with mass spectrometry," she wrote in her application.
Schutt and Lamos published a review on this mixedisotope labeling in Bioanalyis 2012. Her proposal spells out her plan to compare multiple fatty acid concentrations between healthy patients, patients at high risk for breast cancer, and patients at various stages of breast cancer to outline a disease pathway for cancer. Schutt and Lamos are continued their research over the summer with the support of a Vermont Genetics Network grant.