Chemistry and Biochemistry

Charlotte Reininger Receives Goldwater Scholarship

Posted: Mar 31, 2014

Charlottle Reininger, a junior in Dr. Farnsworth's lab, has been awarded the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which awards up to $7,500 to sophomores or juniors studying mathematics, science or engineering.

The scholarship was designed to encourage students to pursue careers in the three areas, and to contribute to the knowledge base for each community. Each year, four applicants are chosen by the university to be submitted for selection at the national level.

"I was really excited just to be selected for the university, and it didn't matter as much to win," Reininger said. "It was an honor just to be selected within BYU."

Out of the 1,166 applicants, only 283 were chosen, and only two of those were from BYU: Reininger and Stephen Erickson, who is double majoring in physics and mathematics. Students are chosen based on their GPA, research experience, and how their current research can help solve a world issue.

Reininger is currently working on understanding the mechanism for ambient desorption/ionization sources for mass spectrometry, which allow for direct analysis of common objects in the lab or their natural environment. She has determined the absolute number densities of the helium metastable atoms using a custom built atomic absorption spectrometer.

Comparing the densities of the helium metastable atoms in the dielectric barrier discharge, the low temperature plasma, and the AC and DC plasma sources, she has identified that the drastic difference in the number densities could indicate operation of these sources with fundamentally different ionization mechanisms. The ionization sources can be used to detect illegal substances such as cocaine on a dollar bill, counterfeit prescription drugs, pesticides on fruit peels, bad components in formula milk, and more.

Upon being selected, Reininger was ecstatic and says she felt a huge wave a relief. While she would have been happy to just be a candidate for the scholarship, winning helped reinforce her decision to focus her time at BYU on research.

"When I found out I had been selected, it just confirmed to me that this is where I'm supposed to be in my life," Reininger said.

The $7,500 will go towards Reininger's housing, tuition, fees and books for her senior year here at BYU. She plans to apply to graduate schools in November, and hopes to earn a PhD in analytical or physical chemistry.