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Eastern Kentucky University Chemistry major and honors program student Andrew Elliott has been named a winner of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Elliott is the fifth Goldwater winner in the university’s history, and the second in the last three years. 

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship is the most prestigious nationally competitive undergraduate scholarship program in the United States for students aiming at careers in the natural sciences, math, and engineering. Elliott, a non-traditional student and current head tutor for EKU’s Chemistry department, is the only winner this year from any regional comprehensive university in Kentucky.

“When my mentor, Dr. Margaret Ndinguri, suggested that I would be a strong Goldwater candidate, I thought that she was mistaken,” Elliott said. “I applied nonetheless, and obviously I’m happy that I did. I hope that my example will show other non-traditional students that they can perform at a high level in college. I hope that they will see this and realize that they shouldn’t be intimidated by change.” 

Last year, Elliott became the first recipient of EKU’s Richard and Mary Steele Memorial Fund Scholarship, which helped him focus on his research and his studies while also being a husband and father. His recent focus has been on researching novel coumarinoids to help develop therapeutics that could help cancer patients. 

“I am pleased that this will serve as an important example to my son, Eli. He has watched me, and his mother too, work very hard to get through school. I think that it is important for him to see that hard work pays off,” Elliott said. “The Mary Steele Memorial scholarship was a crucial element in my application for the Goldwater scholarship.  I needed to show that I had a history of successfully applying to and then completing research scholarships.”

Elliott is passionate about oncology research and is grateful to learn from his mentors. The respect between mentor and student is mutual. Ndinguri, of EKU’s Chemistry Department explained, “I have enjoyed working with Andrew Elliott in my research lab. He is intelligent, hardworking, mature, personable, and a natural in science. Andrew is a quick learner and his intellectual curiosity puts him above his peers. His major strengths are a strong work ethic and self-drive both in class and in research settings,” she said. 

The Goldwater Scholarship will open doors for Elliott that he didn’t think were possible, he said. 

“I want to get into a M.D./Ph.D. program, preferably at University of Kentucky. I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in either Toxicology or Immunology and to hopefully advance into an Oncology internship following medical school,” Elliott said. “I would like to work here, in the epicenter of the cancer epidemic. I want to help improve outcomes by improving current treatments and to help to conduct the research necessary for discovering new treatments.” He also credits the rich opportunities afforded him at EKU with his success. As a Goldwater Scholar, he is one step closer to achieving his goals. 

In addition to his groundbreaking research, Elliott contributes valuable insights in his honors seminars. Dr. Randi Polk, Coordinator of Nationally Competitive Awards, was fortunate to have Elliott in her class on dress as cultural identity. “Drew is that student you can always count on to engage others in learning and bring new ideas to the discussion. I am so proud of Drew and know he will accomplish great things,” Polk said. He is also a trained French pastry chef and an origami enthusiast. 

“When I returned to school it was fresh off of a business failure. My wife and I built up a small bakery, Clementine’s Bakeshop, from nothing to a storefront that supplied about a dozen locations with pastry. We thought that this was our dream, but it just never truly crystalized for us. Coming off this failure was tough, and after conferring with my friends and family I realized that school was the best path for me. My wife pointed out that I would often come home after a 12-hour shift at the bakery and relax by reading chemistry textbooks,” Elliott said. For more information on Goldwater and other nationally competitive awards, email Dr. Polk at