An Eastern Illinois University chemistry major whose very first research project yielded significant findings in her field has now earned the distinction of being named a 2008-2009 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar.
Rebecca C. Grove is one of only 321 students in the country to be honored by the scholarship program, which is the premier undergraduate award of its type in science, math and engineering.
Grove, who just finished her junior year, will receive $7,500 toward the completion of her undergraduate degree.
Grove, a member of the Honors College who earned a four-year scholarship as an EIU Presidential Scholar, is quick to give credit for her success to the many faculty and staff members who have worked closely with her at EIU. She said the Goldwater Scholarship reflects not only her own accomplishments, but also the work of the people who helped her achieve them.
"There is a lot of attention and one-on-one interaction at Eastern that I don't think I'd get at any other university," she said. "There have been a lot of faculty that helped me. It's been a collaborative effort. It certainly wasn't something that I did by myself."
Kraig Wheeler, associate professor of chemistry, has been a "wonderful" research adviser, she said, adding that he pushes her as a student and as a chemist. "He is the whole reason I've been doing research," she said.
In preparing for the Goldwater competition, Grove worked very closely with Wheeler and Sara Schmidt, an Honors College adviser, in preparing her formal application, as well as writing and revising her essay.
Titled “Interpreting Molecular Shape and Recognition through Quasiracemates,” Grove's essay examined her participation in ongoing research directed by Kraig Wheeler and posited how the research might be further expanded in the future.
In her lab work with Wheeler, Grove studies the crystal growth of organic compounds, and then views their individual atoms using X-ray diffraction. The findings could eventually be applied to other fields, such as nanotechnology and medicine.
Grove's first research project with Wheeler turned out so well that her findings were published in a major research publication, one that usually is reserved for work coming out of Ph.D.-granting institutions. In June, she is to present that paper at a conference.
"It never happens that you get a brand new person in the lab who has a major impact in your field, but Rebecca certainly did that," Wheeler said. "She has just been unbelievably successful. Over the last year, she has won numerous awards well beyond my comprehension. Everything she has touched has turned into gold."
Grove is working in the lab this summer as part of her relentless dedication to achieving her goals.
Grove's future plans are to earn a doctorate in organic chemistry, teach at the university level and conduct research in organic synthesis.A 2005 graduate of Danville High School, Grove is the daughter of Edward and Betty Grove of Danville.