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Grand Valley student awarded prestigious Goldwater scholarship

  • Brianne Docter

Posted on March 30, 2012

Grand Valley State University junior Brianne Docter, of Jenison, has been named a 2012 Goldwater Scholar. Docter is a Chemistry major, Frederik Meijer Honors College student, and maintains a 4.0 GPA.
The nationally prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, awarded to exceptional college sophomores and juniors aiming to pursue careers in science, mathematics, and engineering, covers eligible expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board, up to a maximum of $7,500 annually.
Docter plans to pursue her doctorate in biochemistry. “I aspire to work as a biomedical scientist to study how diseases work at the cellular and molecular level,” she said. “I have always dreamed of finding cures for diseases. Discovering new knowledge that no one has yet known is exhilarating.” 
Since 2010, Docter has conducted research in the lab of Dr. Bradley Wallar, professor of chemistry at Grand Valley State University.
“The Goldwater Scholarship is a prestigious award that is only given to the most exceptional undergraduate students in the STEM fields,” Wallar said. “This national award brings significant recognition to both Brianne and GVSU. Brianne has worked very hard and is truly deserving of this award. We expect outstanding things from her in the future.”
Docter currently investigates the class C beta-lactamase, AmpC.  Beta-lactamases are able to break down antibiotics such as penicillin and are responsible for antibiotic resistance in certain strains of bacteria. Last summer, Docter participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Program in the lab of Dr. Ora Weisz, professor of medicine and cell biology and physiology at theUniversity of Pittsburgh. Docter’s success in these labs has led to poster presentations of her results at the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meetings, the West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Conference, GVSU Student Scholars Day, as well as co-authorship of publications submitted for consideration to peer-reviewed journals. 
Among Docter’s impressive achievements include being named a National Presidential Scholar Candidate, a National Merit Finalist, a GVSU Presidential Scholar, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Freshman Honoree, 2010 Outstanding Cell and Molecular Biology Student and 2011 Chemistry Department Outstanding Sophomore. In addition to her research, Brianne is actively involved in leadership as theVice President of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Club and service in Campus Ministry and Alternative Spring Break Programs.
“Brianne is a humble leader who makes a difference in both our labs and our communities,” said Amanda Cuevas, director of the Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships. “We are very proud of this rising star.”
Docter was one of 284 Goldwater Scholars awarded nationally. 1,123 sophomores and juniors from all across the country were nominated to the Barry M. Goldwater Foundation this year. Four-year institutions are eligible to nominate up to four students who are in the sophomore or junior class each year. Docter joins GVSU alumnus Kyle Schneider, who received a Goldwater Scholarship in 2008 while working in the lab of Chemistry Professor David Leonard.
GVSU students interested in applying for the Goldwater Scholarship are encouraged to contact Amanda Cuevas at or (616) 331-3219.  The campus deadline for the 2013 award cycle is Friday, January 11, 2013.
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields. To learn more, visit

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