AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Patrick Donnan, an Auburn University Honors College student double-majoring in physics and music, has been chosen as a 2013 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, an honor bestowed only to approximately 300 students nationwide each year. The scholarship is widely considered the most prestigious award in the United States for undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
Donnan, an Auburn native, conducts research with Professor Francis Robicheaux as part of the theoretical and computational atomic physics group in the College of Sciences and Mathematics’ Department of Physics.
“I am truly honored to have been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship,” Donnan said. “I have been working toward the Goldwater since I learned about it freshman year, and it’s a wonderful feeling to have accomplished that goal.”
Donnan’s research involves studying processes in atoms by using advanced computational methods. Specifically, his work examines Rydberg atoms, which appear in virtually every subfield of atomic physics and have widespread interest in the atomic physics research community. He has co-authored four peer-reviewed publications, including articles in the Auburn University Journal of Undergraduate Research and in Nature: The International Weekly Journal of Science, among others.
In May he will travel to Leipzig, Germany, to study at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics. Upon graduation from Auburn, he aims to complete a doctorate in theoretical atomic physics and ultimately become a physics professor.
“Patrick is very enthusiastic about physics,” Robicheaux said. “He is very easy to work with and he has a good temperament for research. Setbacks don’t trouble him and if something gives problems, he works at it until the problems are fixed. His motivation and drive are incredibly high and he has the training and talents of a top scientist.”
Donnan, who has a 3.98 grade point average, is president of the Auburn chapter of the Society for Physics Students and a member of the Undergraduate Research Board. In addition, he is principal chair with the bassoon in the Auburn University Symphonic Band and a member of the Auburn Community Orchestra.
Auburn Honors College student Tyler Sutherland received honorable mention during the 2013 Goldwater Scholarship selection process, one of only 50 students nationwide to enjoy this distinction. He is majoring in physics and minoring in mathematics and works under the guidance of Stuart Loch, associate professor of physics. Sutherland is also a tutor in the Loachapoka Afterschool Program, a member of the Undergraduate Research Board and a teaching assistant in the Department of Physics.
Originally from Huntsville, he will spend the summer in Cambridge, Mass., as an intern in the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Summer Program.
“It was a pleasure assisting Patrick and Tyler with their Goldwater applications,” said Paul Harris, associate director of the Honors College. “I first met Patrick when he was enrolled in my Honors Human Odyssey Course during his freshman year and shortly thereafter I met Tyler. They represent the very best of what my office looks for in prestigious scholarship applicants: an intellectually curious nature, a sincere desire to learn for learning’s sake and a ‘can-do, will-do’ attitude.”