An OU student received a 2021 Goldwater Scholarship, becoming the 59th winner from the university since 1986.
According to an OU press release, chemical engineering junior Aanahita Irani Ervin was one of the 438 students nationwide to receive the scholarship from a field of 1,200 nominees. College sophomores and juniors pursuing research careers in natural sciences, engineering and mathematics are awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to $7,500 per year.
Irani Ervin wrote in an email to The Daily she found out about the award from Sepideh Razavi, her research advisor, on March 26. Irani Ervin questioned her selection, attributing it to luck, her gender or the under-represented community from which she came.
“When I found out I won, I was initially very excited, and my heart was beating so fast. But that night and the following days, I began wondering why I was selected,” Irani Ervin wrote. “Not once did I think, perhaps I have conducted noteworthy research and was able to effectively illustrate the experimental techniques I have learned or in the face of a challenge or obstacle, I troubleshoot and find a solution. Sadly, I began using this award to fuel my imposter syndrome.”
Irani Ervin wrote she reminded herself about the actual reason why she received the scholarship — her passion for helping the environment.
“I think the reason I was selected for the award is twofold,” Irani Ervin wrote. “One, I think my ability to effectively communicate a very technical research problem in a simple manner without dumbing it down was crucial. Secondly, I emphasized the benefit it can have to communities and the environment.”
Irani Ervin wrote her research proposal on a topic she feels deserves national recognition — “Interaction of Colloidal Particles and Surfactant Molecules: Case of Similarly Charged Species” under the field of Interfacial and Colloidal Sciences — which was a pivotal part of the scholarship application.
“I emphasized how my research could help CO2 sequestration and wastewater treatment techniques, and I spoke about climate change serving as my motivation to help the environment and pursue a Ph.D.,” Irani Ervin wrote. “Research is done to improve human life, to improve our planet, and tying in how exactly my project could positively impact the environment most likely illustrated that I was doing research for a cause bigger than myself.”
Irani Ervin wrote that the climate change crisis continues to motivate her to complete her accelerated master’s degree in chemical engineering at OU and to apply to graduate school to obtain a doctoral degree. Ultimately, she hopes to work for a non-profit organization such as the World Resource Institute.
While at OU, Irani Ervin has been a member of the OU Honors College; she has held a 4.0 grade-point average; she received the Rick Clawson Memorial Scholarship and the Douglas and Hilda Bourne Engineering Scholarship; and she has been an EarthDNA Ambassador at MIT, a Chevron Phillips mentor and a co-committee chair for the Halliburton Retreat and Women’s Welcome. Lastly, she is an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program award winner.
“We are incredibly proud of Aanahita Ervin for earning the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship,” OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. said in the release. “During her time at OU, Aanahita has taken full advantage of research opportunities at OU and beyond. We congratulate her on this impressive achievement, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for her.”
Irani Ervin wrote that she wants to thank everyone who helped her pursue her goals at OU, especially her grandmother for the lessons she taught her when she was younger. She advised OU students to make bonds with their professors by attending office hours and to look for diversity in their social circle to hear about different opportunities at the university.
“I’m thankful for my mom for always pushing me to succeed, and my siblings for teaching me how to fight and be stubborn,” Irani Ervin wrote. “I’m thankful for Joshua Higginbotham for making me believe I could pursue chemical engineering, and my professors Dr. Razavi, Dr. Lobban and Dr. O’Rear for the constant support, advice, and rigor. I’m thankful for my boyfriend and best friend, Blake Gerard, for always being there for me through this grueling major.”