Honors Student Earns Goldwater Scholarship, A Highly Sought-After Award for Students in STEM

A woman wearing a lab coar with black hair poses for a photo in one of V C U's labsBy William Lineberry & Sarah Klotz

Gabriella Daire, a junior in the Virginia Commonwealth University Honors College who studies biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, has been selected as a recipient of the Goldwater Scholarship, a prestigious national honor for undergraduate students in STEM fields.

Daire will study disuse induced bone loss within the context of cellular senescence as a Goldwater Scholar under the guidance of Henry Donahue, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the VCU College of Engineering.

“Daire is a rising star among VCU’s best and brightest young scientists,” said Jeff Wing, director of the VCU National Scholarship Office, which Daire utilized to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship. “Despite beginning her undergraduate career under the cloud of COVID-19, she consistently and tirelessly sought out research opportunities. She came in with a focus that is not typical of first-year undergraduates, and she has maintained that focus to expand her research portfolio and identify research groups where she could pursue more in-depth research as a graduate student.”

A Richmond native, Daire began her research career as a participant in the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program, which is funded through the National Science Foundation. She then spent summer 2021 working on a research project in the laboratory directed by the University of Virginia’s Sally Pusede, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

After completing her undergraduate studies, Daire plans to pursue a Ph.D. in either biomedical sciences or cell and molecular biology, with a focus on space medicine. Her career aspirations include leading a research group studying the physiological effects of long-term space travel, focusing on radiation, musculoskeletal effects and/or the central nervous system.

The Goldwater Scholarship program fosters and encourages outstanding students to pursue research careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. In this year’s process, 413 scholars were selected from 1,267 nominated applicants. VCU has had 16 Goldwater Scholars, including Daire, in the past 17 years.

“I would advise future applicants to start early in the process and to fully utilize campus resources, especially the NSO,” she said.

Daire is a member of VCU’s Initiative for Maximizing Student Development Scholars Program. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the program provides research training in the biomedical and behavioral sciences for traditionally underrepresented groups.

“Watching Gabby’s love of and commitment to science grow has been exciting,” said Sarah Golding, Ph.D., associate professor and director of undergraduate research in the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “It’s rare to see young students with such a clear idea of what their scientific contribution to our world will be. Gabby has taken advantage of every opportunity to learn more, present her research and prepare herself for what we know will be a highly successful career in science.”

Students or alumni interested in applying to the Goldwater Scholarship program can attend an information session hosted by the NSO on April 28 at noon. Register to attend or request a recording here. To learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, schedule an appointment with a member of the NSO staff.