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Marymount Alumna, Skye Embray '19 Receives Prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Skye Embray ’19, who now attends Trinity College recently received the Barry Goldwater Scholarship from a pool of more than 5,000 applicants from across the country.
The scholarship is one of the most prestigious awards for students interested in pursuing careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

Alison J. Draper, the director of Trinity’s Center for Interdisciplinary Science, said this scholarship is a recognition of the opportunities Trinity students have to work one-on-one with faculty members and conduct original research. “With the Goldwater, Skye is recognized for her potential as a future scientist based on the deep experience and interest she already has,” Draper said. “Winning a Goldwater will get her noticed by future graduate school programs and employers—it’s like a national seal of approval.”

According to its website, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to serve as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate. By providing scholarships to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering, the Goldwater Foundation is helping ensure that the U.S. is producing highly-qualified professionals in these critical fields.

Embray, who is from Los Angeles, California, and is double-majoring in environmental science and public policy and law at Trinity, said that the Goldwater Scholarship represents an acknowledgment of her work toward achieving academic excellence and pursuing a career in science. “The Goldwater Scholarship reminds me that I am capable, whether in the classroom or the laboratory,” Embray said. “This award, which I am highly honored to receive, is a testament to my dedication and passion for environmental science and a symbol of encouragement for me to continue working toward my goals.”

After first becoming interested in environmental science thanks to a middle school ecology class, Embray developed a passion for understanding the environment and ways to protect its resources and the life within it. “I continued exploring and refining this fascination and have been able to settle on studying water quality and freshwater ecosystems,” Embray said.

She chose to attend Trinity because the city of Hartford was the culturally diverse environment she was looking for. “I also was excited about the presence of a strong Environmental Science Program with opportunities for research, and the multitude of student-run social organizations that would allow me to find a community on campus,” she said. At Trinity, Embray is a resident advisor, co-president of the Trinity College Black Women’s Organization (TCBWO), and co-captain of the Trinity Cheerleading Team.

Embray has worked extensively with Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Biology Amber L. Pitt, her major adviser and research adviser. “Professor Pitt has been so supportive in helping me discover and refine my career path,” Embray said. “She has always steered me toward opportunities and programs that will help advance my academic and professional careers.”

Her current research focuses on understanding the spatial distribution of mercury accumulation in the floating vegetation of a pond in West Hartford’s Beachland Park. “I believe that scientific research is extremely important because it gives individuals the power to discover the answers to their own questions,” Embray said. “I focus on the importance of applied scientific research because it can provide the understanding necessary for the development of solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. Personally, scientific research has allowed me to refine my critical thinking skills and to stretch the ends of my curiosity.”

Pitt said that Embray is an exceptionally bright and motivated student who developed a strong interest in aquatic ecology through a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the University of Arkansas. “She is committed to ensuring that environmental policy is grounded in robust science so that we, as a society, can effectively address and mitigate practices that are contributing to environmental crises,” Pitt said. “With her academic training, research experiences, and determination, I expect Skye will be at the forefront of environmental research and policy throughout her career.”

Embray aspires to combine the science of aquatic ecology with policy development to address damages to natural water resources through pollution and chemical contamination. “In the long term, I plan to obtain a Ph.D. in aquatic ecology with an emphasis on sustainability and resource management,” she said.