Two UNCA Students Receive Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for Science Research - TribPapers

Two UNCA Students Receive Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for Science Research

Ari Puentes, photo submitted.

Asheville – Dylan Major and Ari Puentes of UNC Asheville have received the renowned national scholarship offered to undergraduates pursuing degrees in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. This year, the Goldwater Scholarship will only be awarded to 308 students nationwide who are majoring in the natural sciences, including these two.As a recent University McCullough Fellow, Puentes, a biology major with a focus in American Indian and Indigenous studies, studied macrofungal populations and controlled fires.

Dylan Major, photo submitted.
Dylan Major, photo submitted.

In order to solve issues in resilient and environmentally sustainable urban design, sustainable agriculture, and land use and conservation, undergraduates who are chosen for the competitive McCullough Fellowship program conduct practical research. He conducted a study titled “Assessing the Effects of Prescribed Fires on Macrofungal Community Composition in Upland Mixed Oak-Pine Forests,” which led to the construction of the university’s first-ever fungarium. In addition, Puentes engages citizen scientists from all over the world to take part in the GO-SEA (Global Ocean Surface Ecosystem Alliance) community science project, which is aimed at researching the ocean surface ecosystem.

Major participates in track & field and cross country as a student-athlete. He double majored in computer science and atmospheric sciences, and he also studied applied mathematics. Thanks to the Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Major will conduct research to evaluate an AI-based blended marine air temperature (MAT) dataset as part of a full-time paid internship with NOAA and the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies (NCICS) this summer. He is currently a research intern with NOAA/NCICS studying precipitation and climate.

Major and Puentes are the fourth and fifth students from UNC Asheville to receive the Goldwater Scholarship, joining student-athletes Mallory Rothrock ’20, Blanton Gillespie ’18, and Grace Volk ’21.

Major and Puentes will each get $7,500 as part of the Goldwater Scholarship, which is a nationwide scholarship program. Beyond that, the distinction will draw attention to them as exceptional students that graduate programs should consider.