Two VCU students named Goldwater Scholars

From left to right: Portraits of Madison Bates and Nana AfiaTwumasi-Ankrah.
Madison Bates, left, and Nana AfiaTwumasi-Ankrah are two of only 396 Goldwater Scholars this year, selected from a pool of 1,343 nominated applicants. (Courtesy photo)

Two Virginia Commonwealth University students have been selected for the Goldwater Scholarship, the premier national scholarship for undergraduate science, technology, engineering and math students.

Madison Bates, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering, and Nana Afia Twumasi-Ankrah, a junior majoring in bioinformatics in the Center for the Study of Biological Complexity in VCU Life Sciences, were named 2020 Goldwater Scholars. The Goldwater Scholarship Program, which honors the late Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. In this year’s competition, 396 Goldwater Scholars were selected from a field of more than 1,343 applicants nominated by 461 colleges or universities. With the addition of Bates and Twumasi-Ankrah, VCU has had 13 Goldwater Scholars in the past 14 years.

Originally from Hawaii, Bates transferred to VCU from Tidewater Community College. She has been doing research with Jennifer Puetzer, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, since shortly after arriving at VCU. Bates’ project is focused on collagen development in musculoskeletal tissue engineering, which is the field that she plans to pursue in graduate school. Bates is also a fellow in the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Initiative at VCU Engineering. After completing her Ph.D., Bates intends to become a leader in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Born in Ghana, Twumasi-Ankrah immigrated to the United States with her family 15 years ago. Twumasi-Ankrah works in the research group of Jennifer Fettweis, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the VCU School of Medicine, conducting research related to the vaginal microbiome and the role it plays in modulating the development of vaginal infections. Twumasi-Ankrah is also a participant in the National Institutes of Health Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program at VCU. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computational biology and eventually lead her own research group to explore the links between the human microbiome and cancer.

Both Bates and Twumasi-Ankrah have presented their work at national conferences and are working on projects that will lead to publication.

Bates and Twumasi-Ankrah applied for the Goldwater Scholarship through VCU's National Scholarship Office, which serves as the Goldwater Scholarship campus representative. The office assists VCU students and alumni who wish to compete for prestigious national and international scholarships. The office will begin recruiting candidates for the 2021 Goldwater Scholarship competition at an information session scheduled during this year's virtual Research Week at 11 a.m. on April 23. Current first- and second-year undergraduates who are interested in learning more about the nomination process for the Goldwater Scholarship are encouraged to visit the NSO blog to register to attend and get the link to the online information session.

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 30,000 students in 233 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Twenty-two of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.