April 19 2018

Junior Benjamin Hess and Nadia Dervish ‘17 recently won prestigious national scholarships. Hess was selected as a 2018 Goldwater Scholar, while Dervish won a Fulbright Scholarship through the English Assistant Teaching Program.

Hess is a geology major whose independent research at the University of Chicago’s labs, collaborative research with Professors of Geology Greenberg and Moshier at Wheaton and summer research internship in New York City with the American Museum of Natural History allowed him to receive this scholarship. Although the scholarship is not a grant, Hess explained, it is a recognition of current research he is doing as well as acknowledgement of his potential.

“It will essentially allow me entry into any geoscience graduate program,” he said. “The future is brimming with potential.”

Next year, Hess will take upper-level geology classes and continue research he began at Wheaton at the University of Leeds in England. Hess shared that he has been researching clay fulgurites, which are more colloquially known as lightning rock.

“Lightning strikes the ground and melts it, and as the melt cools, it forms a glass structure,” he explained. “I’m essentially making structural maps to try and determine what this fulgurite is actually made out of … It’s largely exploration work as I’m not entirely sure what I’ll find, but that makes the work a lot of fun. There are some scientific papers about similar work, so I have some ideas, but I think from my preliminary results, I’ll be making some new discoveries here.”

After graduating from Wheaton, Hess intends to pursue a doctorate in metamorphic or igneous geology.

The Goldwater Scholarship is a highly competitive scholarship from the Goldwater Foundation intended to aid, distinguish and encourage students pursuing careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. Hess was one of 211 students who were awarded up to $7,500 each, selected from a pool of over 1,280 students around the nation.

Hess said, “To me, the Goldwater award is an affirmation that I’m doing exactly what God has gifted me to do.”

Hess also shared some insight into the application process which, he explained, requires a different approach at Wheaton than at a research institution.

“Wheaton is not a research institution. I can’t speak to the other departments, but geology does not have the funds to do serious, cutting-edge research. But Wheaton does have amazing professors who are knowledgeable in their field and are willing to invest personally in the students. Doing well in my classes and having professors who are willing to write very good letters of recommendation enabled me to apply to external research opportunities.”

Hess was given an Honorable Mention in 2017 for his research with Moshier and Greenberg, but he said his research internship with the American Museum of Natural History last summer was what set him apart this year.

“My advice to students wanting this scholarship or to do research in general is that you have to take responsibility for your own research experience and seek it out. Your professors will guide and mentor you, but there are opportunities that you need beyond Wheaton. You need to take the initiative to seek these out and apply for them.”

Students interested in applying for this award should contact Wheaton’s Goldwater Scholarship advisor Arend Poelarends, assistant professor of physics and astronomy.

Nadia Dervish, a 2017 graduate from Wheaton, was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship through the English Teaching Assistant program. Dervish majored in English and minored in Urban Studies, and participated in Wheaton in Chicago, the Youth Hostel Ministry and the Shalom Community during her time at Wheaton. She spent last summer at Azerbaijan University of Languages in an intensive Turkish language program on a Critical Language Scholarship from the Department of State Bureau of Cultural Affairs.

Dervish will spend next year in Turkey serving as cultural ambassador for the U.S. through teaching English and assisting local English teachers.

The Fulbright Program is a prestigious international educational exchange program for research and study abroad that seeks to increase understanding between the United States and the 160 countries it engages with. This highly competitive scholarship has an award rate of around 23 percent, according to statistics from the last three years. Wheaton’s Fulbright Program advisor for the last six years, Associate Professor of Genetics Rodney Scott, shared the statistics of awardees from Wheaton.

“In the last 10 years we have had eight awardees, seven of those for English Teaching Assistantship awards and one for a study/research award. We have also had other awardees in previous decades.”

Scott advised that anyone interested in applying for the Fulbright Scholarship should start working on the process in the spring semester of their junior year, after forming relationships with professional mentors and being involved in extracurriculars that would stand out in an application. He warns that competition for these scholarships are fierce, but that often the application process alone is worth it.

“[We] have many qualified students at Wheaton and even the process of applying can be highly formative. And when a student does win a Fulbright award, it is an impressive distinction that they will carry with them for the rest of their life.”

Students interested in the Fulbright Program should contact Associate Professor of Communication Read Schuchardt, who is serving as Wheaton’s advisor for this scholarship while Scott is on sabbatical.