It is rare for smaller private schools to produce Goldwater Scholars, and Florida Southern now has two in the past three years, said FSC Provost Dr. Kyle Fedler. Zach receiving a Goldwater Scholarship is a testament to Florida Southern's commitment to undergraduate research as one element of its focus on experiential education.
Established in 1986 to promote education and research by undergraduates in STEM fields, the Goldwater Scholarship Program was created in honor of the late Senator Barry Goldwater and is the preeminent undergraduate award of its kind. The goal of the scholarship program is to identify and support college students who show exceptional promise of becoming the next generation of research leaders.
As a researcher, Zachary's primary interest is the delivery of medications to treat diseases of the retina. Unlike current treatments that involve direct injections into the retina, Zachary's project involves the development and analysis of a drug delivery system based on nanotechnology, to entrap treatments inside metal-organic polyhedra — which he describes as cages — meant to travel through the gel-like vitreous of the eye until they reach the retina, where they slowly release the medication. The goals of this procedure, if proven to be viable, would be to reduce the risks of surgery and lower costs while making the treatment accessible to more patients.
At most schools, students begin research in their junior or senior year, but at FSC I was able to start on this research in the summer of my freshman year, Zachary said. I started shadowing faculty and students in the lab just a couple of weeks after getting here. That's a unique advantage of being at Florida Southern, being able to stay for the summer and do research. You're really able to focus.
Zachary plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering with a specialization in drug delivery mechanisms. He is the current president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology student chapter at FSC. He is also a member of the American Chemical Society's student chapter, the Gamma Sigma Epsilon national chemistry honor society, the Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society, and the Kappa Mu Epsilon mathematics honor society, and he serves as an executive board member of FSC's Astronomy Club.
In addition to the Goldwater Scholarship, Zachary is also a recipient of the C.V. McClurg Scholarship, awarded to first-year FSC students in recognition of exceptional academic merit. The scholarship covers full tuition and fees for four years of study.
This is the second Goldwater Scholarship to be awarded to a Florida Southern student. In 2017, then-sophomore Jake Griner was named the College's first Goldwater Scholar, receiving a $7,500 research stipend during both his junior and senior years. Graduating in May 2019, Jake is enrolled in the M.D.-Ph.D. dual-degree program at the Medical University of South Carolina with plans to pursue a career in medical oncology and cancer immunology research.