Carnegie Mellon University
May 15, 2019

Sophomore William Fahy Recognized as Goldwater Scholar

By Ben Panko

Second-year chemistry student William Fahy has been named a 2019 Goldwater Scholar by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

He is one of 496 recipients of the scholarship, which recognizes second- and third-year college students intending to pursue research careers in mathematics, engineering and the natural sciences. A total of 1,223 students were nominated by 443 academic institutions for the award, which provides up to $7,500 per undergraduate year for tuition, mandatory fees, books, room and board.

Fahy, a native of Maine, plans to pursue a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry after his graduation.

"I'm working on a really active subfield of atmospheric chemistry," Fahy said of his research.

Under Associate Professor of Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering Ryan Sullivan, Fahy has been researching how particles, specifically volcanic ash, can be changed in the upper atmosphere, and how this could change the particles’ effects on the formation of ice. Volcanic eruptions can send large amounts of particulate matter into the air, Fahy notes, and these minerals can be exposed to a variety of conditions and chemicals in the atmosphere that could alter their properties. The resulting products of these interactions could have major effects on radiative forcing processes that drive climate change.

"The implications are enormous," Fahy said. "We don't really have a good understanding of this yet." Using a specially designed reaction chamber in Sullivan's lab, Fahy is able to expose volcanic ash to a variety of simulated conditions and precisely observe how it reacts.

Outside of his research, Fahy plays eight different kinds of flute and is a member of Carnegie Mellon's All-University Orchestra and flute choir. He has also served as a Highland Ambassador, been a member of Carnegie Mellon Rocket Command, served as communications director for Model United Nations and been treasurer for Project Ignite. As a first-year student, Fahy was awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), and he recently took the top prize in the environmental research category at the 2019 Meeting of the Minds.

“William has shown noteworthy initiative in research starting in high school and continuing soon after he arrived at Carnegie Mellon,” said Richelle Bernazzoli, assistant director of the Undergraduate Research Office. “We have been especially pleased to see William’s contributions recognized both on campus as well as nationally with the Goldwater Scholarship.”

This summer, Fahy will be participating in an International SURF at the University of Leeds. He believes his Goldwater scholarship will help him follow his goal of going to graduate school and eventually working on teaching and environmental research and policy.

"I feel it's going to open a lot of doors for me."