Pitt’s Gordon, Steers Named Goldwater Scholars

Issue Date: 
April 9, 2007

University of Pittsburgh Honors College students Benjamin Gordon, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering in the School of Engineering, and Stanley Steers, a sophomore majoring in physics and music in the School of Arts and Sciences, have been awarded 2007 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships for their exceptional independent research in the science and engineering disciplines.

“We are very proud of the exceptional record of high achievement being built by University of Pittsburgh undergraduates,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. “Earlier in the academic year, our students claimed 2007 Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships. For Benjamin Gordon and Stanley Steers to be named 2007 Goldwater Scholars extends that record of student success and is a real mark of distinction, for them and for our Honors College.”

“To win a Goldwater Scholarship is the highest national honor for an undergraduate studying science or engineering,” said G. Alec Stewart, Honors College dean and Pitt’s Goldwater faculty representative. “It was particularly fulfilling for the University to have students win in both the applied and basic sciences.”

Many of Pitt’s recent Goldwater Scholars have gone on to receive prestigious postgraduate awards. For example, Pitt 2007 Rhodes Scholar Daniel Armanios won a Goldwater Scholarship in 2004, and Pitt 2006 Rhodes Scholar Justin Chalker received a 2005 Goldwater. Pitt undergraduates have won a total of 37 Goldwater Scholarships, 29 since 1995.

The Goldwater Scholarship was established in 1986 by the U.S. Congress in honor of then-Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields, the Goldwater Scholarship is awarded in either a student’s sophomore or junior year. It covers tuition, room and board, fees, and books—up to a maximum of $7,500 per year—for each student recipient’s remaining period of study.

Growing up in a community plagued with poverty and crime, Gordon, who at age 15 was forced to become financially independent when his mother died, said it was a struggle not to become a statistic. “My mother always stressed that one of the keys to changing the condition of our communities is through proper education,” Gordon said. “As a child, she taught me about famous African American scientists such as Benjamin Banneker.”

At Pitt, Gordon has worked in the Vibration and Control Laboratory under the guidance of William Clark, a Pitt professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Under the direction of Jeffrey Vipperman, an associate professor in Pitt’s Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering, Gordon now works in the Sound, Systems, and Structures Laboratory researching thermoacoustics, the conversion of sound energy into heat energy, and vice versa, with particular interest in improving the efficiency and performance of a prototype model for a thermoacoustical refrigerator.

Gordon plans to earn a Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering and to become an engineering professor, teaching and conducting research in smart structures applications.

Steers said he inherited an immigrant spirit of honor and hard work from his family.

“My father was a small-town attorney whose grandfather had been a butcher,” he said. “The daughter of a teamster, my mother is a Fulbright Scholar who went to a small college in Detroit, and I remember learning about Spanish and Mexican culture as she prepared lesson plans for her public high school students. I have also been truly fortunate to have the love and support of my mother and two sisters after the death of my father in 1995. With love and hard work, my mother managed to support herself and three children and instill in us the desire to push forward and grow as human beings.”

Steers has worked with Walter Goldburg, Pitt Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, conducting fluid dynamics research concerning turbulence in two dimensional soap films. Steers’ long-term career goal is to earn a Ph.D. degree in physics and to conduct research in an academic setting in the field of nonlinear dynamics and turbulence.