George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason junior Rebecca Beuschel wins Goldwater Scholarship

April 9, 2018   /   by Damian Cristodero

Rebecca Beuschel, George Mason University, Goldwater Scholarship

Rebecca Beuschel's research in the lab of associate professor of biology Geraldine Grant is about the search for biomarkers that can detect idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Photo by Geraldine Grant.

Rebecca Beuschel said she did not realize in late March that the announcement of Goldwater Scholarship winners was imminent.

So when the George Mason University junior got the word via email that she was on the list, “I was, like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ ” said Beuschel, who is majoring in biology and neuroscience. “I said, ‘I think I’m about to cry.’ ” 

Awarded since 1989, the prestigious one- or two-year scholarship, presented by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, provides up to $7,500 per year for tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

It is based on academic merit and targeted to undergraduate students in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. There were 211 recipients this year out of 1,280 applicants from colleges and universities nationwide.

Beuschel, from Williamsburg, Va., and a member of the Honors College, will receive the one-year scholarship because she is a junior (sophomores get two years). She is Mason’s third Goldwater recipient the past two years.

The university also had three honorable mentions this year: junior Jiajing Guan, mathematics; junior Doreen Joseph, cyber security engineering; and junior Brian Schnoor, bioengineering. They also are Honors College members.

“With Mason’s R1 status, winning Goldwater Scholarships is a sign that our capacity to support and nurture undergraduate researchers in STEM fields is increasing every year,” said LaNitra Berger, director of the Office of Fellowships in the Honors College and the campus representative for the Goldwater Scholarship.

“Mason made me a more confident person,” Beuschel said. “The opportunities are here. You just have to be able to go out and say, ‘Hey, I want to do that.’ ” 

Associate professor of biology Geraldine Grant has had a front-row seat to Beuschel’s development as a student and researcher as Beuschel has worked in Grant’s lab since her freshman year.

“She’s thoughtful, she’s inquisitive, she really thinks through and does her background,” Grant said. “She’s also extremely humble. She never assumes more than she thinks she knows.”

In her current research, Beuschel and her mentor, biosciences PhD student Luis Rodriguez, are looking for biomarkers in blood cells that can detect idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a disease that results in scarring of the lungs, which makes it difficult to take in enough oxygen.

“Biomarkers are just something in the system that says you may have the disease,” Beuschel said. “The disease that we’re looking at doesn’t have a lot of well-known markers, so we’re trying to clearly identify viable biomarkers to detect the disease.”

That research led Beuschel and her lab mates to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Summit in Nashville, Tenn., where they presented posters of their work.

Beuschel also had discussions with IPF patients and family members. She was so moved by the interactions, she wrote about them in her Goldwater application.

“Just having those conversations and being able to put a face with the disease really impacted me,” Beuschel said. “It was a standout moment that what we’re doing has some degree of importance.”