Thomas Whittemore, a junior from Easley, South Carolina, and Conor Bready, a sophomore from Highland, New York, have been named Goldwater Scholars, the preeminent honor for undergraduate students studying the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.
Whittemore is majoring in chemistry. He is a Furman Hollingsworth Scholar, a merit-based scholarship awarded to students who have made an impact in their communities. He also received a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduate fellowship in 2021. He is interested in inorganic chemistry and the study of solar energy conversion. He has worked as a member of the housing staff, as a chemistry lab teaching assistant and has been active in club soccer and ultimate frisbee. Paul Wagenknecht ’86, professor of chemistry, is his mentor.
“When I opened the website and it said congratulations, I was shocked,” Whittemore said. “Part of my brain didn’t process that I could legitimately win an award like that. It feels like I turned a page in a book to a new chapter.”
“Tom is making and investigating molecules that can be used as photocatalysts, materials that can convert sunlight into either electricity or fuel,” Wagenknecht said. “His ability to excel at both experimental and computational work is extremely powerful, and quite unusual for an undergraduate researcher. He is constantly coming up with good ideas of his own design and is one of the most creative and daring undergraduates I have encountered. He also has an affable, jovial and outgoing personality that contributes greatly to the culture of my laboratory, our department and the whole Furman community.”
Bready is double majoring in chemistry and applied mathematics. He has already had extensive research experience analyzing atmospheric aerosols and photoreceptor decomposition. He has worked as a member of the housing staff and as a volunteer tutor, and he founded the badminton club sport. George Shields, professor of chemistry, is his mentor. Shields recently won the Goldwater Faculty Mentor Award.
“I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Bready said of his win. “I’ve been working hard for all this time. It just feels really good. It feels like I’ve been noticed for it, but I’m just happy and thankful for everyone who helped me along this journey. I’m happy to be part of the Goldwater community.”
“Conor has been an essential researcher for three different projects in our lab,” Shields said. “His main project has been to investigate how small molecules come together in the atmosphere and build up their size to what we call a pre-nucleation cluster.” The work could be important in understanding how aerosols form into clouds, which has implications for reducing global warming. Conor and his co-workers, mostly students, made a significant discovery about the growth of pre-nucleation clusters in the atmosphere. “Conor’s contributions were significant, including organizing a vast amount of data, analyzing of all this data and revising the written paper.” The work was published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry A with Bready as a co-author.
Six Furman students have been named Goldwater Scholars since 2019, including three in 2021 and one in 2019. Every university in the country can nominate four students, sophomores and juniors, each year, pitting students from small liberal arts and science universities, like Furman, against those from large research universities.
“Furman does a great job of matching faculty expertise with student potential,” said Scott Henderson, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Education and director of national and international scholarships. “But it’s not just a matter of expertise. Faculty are committed to ensuring the long-term academic and professional success of students. Conferral of national awards simply reflects that fact.”