An Elon University junior biochemistry major recently became the second Elon student to win the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which is awarded each year to about 300 college sophomores and juniors nationwide who are interested in pursing careers as scientists, mathematicians or engineers. Junior Julie Ronecker recieved an honorable mention.

Kelsey Van Dalfsen, a Lumen scholar, said she was not expecting to win.

“I was really surprised because I never expected I would be named as a scholar,” Van Dalfsen said. “But I’m really proud that I accomplished this, and I’m grateful for the potentials this opportunity could provide.”

Recipients of the scholarship can receive up to $7,500 per academic year. The amount given is based on financial need.

Van Dalfsen said it is not only the financial support that will be helpful in the future, but also the recognition of the award by graduate programs.

“It helps to give me confidence as I apply for things next year as well as the recognition will be an asset as I apply to (graduate) schools because it shows I have already worked hard,” she said. “It will show that I’m passionate about science, and I have the capacity to be successful.”

Van Dalfsen said she hopes to get a Ph.D in either biochemistry or molecular biology and is interested in research surrounding cardiovascular disease because of a family member who has the disease. She said her ideal job would involve working for either the National Institutes of Health or for a disease research foundation.

Van Dalfsen has been conducting research on understanding mechanisms of high glucose-induced cell death in heart cells with her mentor, Vickie Moore, an assistant professor of chemistry. It has been shown that patients with diabetes have a higher incidence of heart cell death, so she is interested in understanding how aspects of diabetes, such as high blood glucose, accelerate this kind of cell death.

Van Dalfsen mentioned this research in her scholarship application, but the scholarship isn't given for specific research. Rather, recipients are chosen based on their overall qualifications.

Moore said Van Dalfsen's recognition is impressive, considering the scale of the application pool.

“I think it’s one more example of the excellent student that she is and the potential she has in scientific research,” Moore said. “On a national scale she has been singled out as a strong scientific researcher. It’s really great that she won, and it’s great for Elon because it boosts national recognition.”