Seniors Nicastri and Tymochko Awarded Competitive Full-Tuition Science Scholarships

Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship promotes women in the sciences

Kate Nicastri ’17, a chemistry major, and Sarah Tymochko ’17, a mathematics major with a computer science minor, have been named this year’s recipients of the Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to two women entering their fourth year at the College of the Holy Cross and majoring in the physical sciences, which include mathematics, computer science, physics, and chemistry. The scholarship covers tuition and fees. In addition, the College supports the Luce Scholars with paid research fellowships during the summer prior to the start of their senior year.

This summer, both Nicastri and Tymochko have been awarded the opportunity to complete Research Experience for Undergraduates (REUs), which are highly competitive summer research programs funded by the National Science Foundation for undergraduates studying science, engineering, or mathematics. Nicastri is completing her REU at the University of Kansas and Tymochko at Kansas State University.

During the 2016-17 academic year, Nicastri, of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., will continue her research on the synthesis of bovidic acid, a naturally occurring anti-insecticidal agent found in the skin of the Bos frontalis, a southeast Asian bovine. Nicastri, who will be conducting this research under the guidance of Kevin Quinn, professor and chair of the chemistry department, impressed the scholarship selection committee with her dedication to scientific discovery, her work ethic, and her enthusiasm for getting other students involved in the physical sciences.

At Holy Cross, Nicastri serves as the secretary of the American Chemical Society student affiliate and has been an RA and HRA for the past two years on campus. She is also a science ambassador, currently working to expand her programming to include a special female-run program about women in science at Girls, Inc. in Worcester.

“We’re getting the girls directly involved with scientific experiments and are also trying to offer them advice about our experience as women in science,” says Nicastri. “My goal is to impart upon women and girls the same excitement I have for all types of science and technology.”

After Holy Cross, Nicastri plans to pursue a Ph.D. in organic chemistry.

Tymochko, of North Hampton, N.H., will continue her research in the field of topology, specifically conducting topological data analysis of vasculature in the retina. The research aims to develop new methods of detecting tortuosity of vessels in the retina that can be used to screen for diseases such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy; it will serve as the topic for Tymochko’s mathematics honors thesis and will be conducted under the guidance of Dave Damiano, professor of mathematics.

On campus, Tymochko serves as the president of the mathematics honors society, Pi Mu Epsilon; the chair of the Student Advisory Committee for the math and computer science department; and is a grader and teaching assistant in the mathematics department. She is also on the Relay for Life planning committee and a member of the Habitat for Humanity club.

After graduation, Tymochko plans to pursue a Ph.D. in applied mathematics.

“Being awarded this scholarship has furthered my determination to achieve this goal as well as to inspire other women to discover their passion for mathematics,” says Tymochko. “I am honored to have been selected for this scholarship and am excited for the opportunities it will bring me.”

Last year, Holy Cross received its second major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation in the amount of $218,722 to continue the competitive Clare Boothe Luce Program at the College, providing scholarships to women in the classes of 2017 through 2019. The grant also supports efforts to develop additional programming for attracting female students to major in the physical sciences at Holy Cross, with the College’s Luce Scholars serving as role models and facilitators for these programs.

The first grant offered scholarships to women in the classes of 2010 through 2014, and both grants were authored by Daniel Bitran, science coordinator and professor of psychology.