University of New Mexico
Julian Vigil, 2016 Goldwater Scholarship Recipient

Would it be unusual for a student to engage in electrochemical catalysis research as a high school senior? Would it be even more unusual if you were a student who came from a culture that does not stress higher education or from a family where neither of your parents completed post-secondary education? It wouldn’t be if you are 2016 Goldwater Scholar Julian Vigil, a young Hispanic man from New Mexico.

Julian has been conducting electroanalytical investigations of catalysts with Dr. Timothy N. Lambert, a Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratory, since his senior year in high school. To date, Julian has co-authored seven peer-reviewed publications, including three papers as the first author. According to Dr. Lambert, “Few students can perform the work and write in an accurate and concise manner that is suitable for scientific journals.” Lambert went on to say, “By the time he finishes college, Julian will have publications in journals like Electroanalysis and The Journal of Physical Chemistry C. That’s quite amazing.”

While Julian has had experience helping to write papers, the Goldwater application involved his first attempt at writing an individual research proposal. When commenting on the application, Julian said, “The Goldwater was my first experience with proposal writing, and the difficult task of communicating a new idea in a compelling, but realistic fashion. These skills will be extremely important in my graduate career and further research endeavors in academia.”

Dr. Abhaya Datye, Chair of the University of New Mexico’s Chemical and Biological Engineering Department points to Julian’s other contributions. “Julian has made a significant impact on our departmental program. He led the implementation of a departmental mentoring program that helps ensure the involvement and success in our programs of students who come from diverse backgrounds,” Datye said. “Of course, Julian could hardly be a better role model for what these students need to do,” Datye went on to say. “I probably should also mention that Julian led the effort to raise sufficient funds so that 21 of our undergraduates could attend the national American Institute of Chemical Engineers student conference.” “We’re really going to hate to see Julian graduate, but it’s time for him to move on and get a Ph.D. He’s certainly ready to do so.”

After graduating from the University of New Mexico in May 2017, Julian will study Chemistry at the University of Cambridge as a Churchill Scholar and plan to complete his PhD in Chemical Engineering at Stanford University.