Tyler Heist, a University of Richmond junior from Independence, Ky., has won a 2014–15 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the country’s premier undergraduate scholarship in mathematics, science and engineering.

Heist is one of only 283 students selected from a field of 1,166 nominated by faculty at colleges and universities nationwide. The one- and two-year scholarships provide up to $7,500 a year toward tuition, fees, books, and room and board. Sixteen Richmond students have won Goldwater Scholarships since 2000.

“It's a tremendous honor to be given the Goldwater Scholarship, as it really shows that I am on an exceptional trajectory to heavily contribute to the scientific world,” said Heist. “However, this definitely wouldn't have been possible without the amazing support I received at Richmond, especially from my research mentors, Dr. April Hill and Dr. Malcolm Hill, as well as Dr. Barry Lawson, who all have made it evident to me what kinds of questions I can be asking with the knowledge I have gained here.”

Heist is a biology and computer science double major whose research examined factors that contribute to the ability of an algal protist, Symbiodinium, to inhabit the cells of various marine sponges. “Our work contributes to the question of how particular organisms are able to take up residence inside of other organisms. This can be connected to many arising issues, like what regulates the maintenance of the ‘good’ bacteria that live in our gut to what can be done to prevent the establishment of parasitic organisms, like those that cause malaria,” said Heist. 

Heist is the son of Jerome and Allison Heist and graduated from Covington Latin School. He received an HHMI Summer Research Fellowship, a School of Arts and Sciences Summer Research Fellowship, the Cole Memorial Scholarship from the biology department, and a Beckman Scholarship, which funds two full summers and an academic year of research.  

Heist plans to attend graduate school to study computational biology or some field of molecular biology. He is a member of Phi Eta Sigma, Beta Beta Beta and Omicron Delta Kappa honor and leadership societies.

Congress established the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation in 1986 to foster and encourage excellence in science and mathematics. Honoring the late Arizona senator, the scholarships encourage American undergraduate students with excellent academic records and outstanding potential to pursue careers in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. The foundation has awarded more than 7,160 scholarships worth approximately $46 million.

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