Mathematical Biology Major Gabrielle Kostecki Among 2023 Goldwater Scholars

Undergraduate Researcher Selected for Prestigious Scholarship

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship recognizes the achievements of exemplary STEM students from around the nation and remains a competitive award for undergraduates. This year, the growing list of Goldwater Scholars includes a University of Houston student with a passion for research and helping others.

Gabrielle Kostecki

Junior mathematical biology major Gabrielle Kostecki adds a Goldwater Scholarship to her growing list of accomplishments. The award will support Kostecki’s ongoing academic endeavors at UH and her journey toward graduate school. She is among 413 Goldwater Scholars selected from an initial pool of approximately 5,000 students.

At UH, Kostecki has contributed her talents to high profile research initiatives, including the groundbreaking development of a fentanyl vaccine under the mentorship of research associate professor of psychology Colin Haile. She also is among the students participating in Biochemistry Undergraduate Research Scholarship (BURS) projects led by biology and biochemistry professors Tony Frankino and Martin A. Nuñez. Kostecki also supported Honors College professor Ann Cheek with work for the Urban Wildlife Conservation Network.

Kostecki’s work on the fentanyl vaccine will be on view during the 18th annual Undergraduate Research Day on April 13. She’s no stranger to this event as she previously showcased research on a COVID-19 vaccine (under the guidance of Haile and psychology professor Therese Kosten).

The Goldwater Scholarship is one of Kostecki’s latest accomplishments at UH. She recently was among the students inducted into the UH chapter of Phi Beta Kappa honor society. Kostecki also earned paid research opportunities with the previously mentioned BURS, the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Scholarship Program and the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Additionally, she has earned an Amgen Scholarship and an Undergraduate Research Travel Award.

The Goldwater Scholarship, and her other awards, are most welcome for Kostecki. She credits her mentors, the University’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards and UH for her success. She also points to her faith as a factor in her ongoing progress as a student, especially as she overcame personal hardships.

“When I started at UH, both of my parents were laid off because of COVID. Research started out as just a way for me to pay for my education, but I found myself being drawn to a career in science,” Kostecki said. “Winning the Goldwater Scholarship is truly humbling. It shows that despite my circumstances and doubt about the future, the Lord has a plan for my life.”

At UH, Kostecki is a student in the Honors College and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. She ultimately hopes to extend her research beyond campus as a parasitologist.

“I want to research the understudied field of neglected tropical diseases, which impact millions globally,” she said. “I want to pursue a Fulbright in an endemic country, before earning a Ph.D. and becoming a professor. I would also like to be involved in advocacy, education and STEM outreach.”

Kostecki joins a community of 10,000 other scholars who have received support from the Barry Goldwater Foundation since 1989. These scholars have gone on to earn other prestigious awards such as the Natural Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Rhodes Scholarship, Marshall Scholarship, Churchill Scholarship, Hertz Fellowship, Department of Energy Computation Science Graduate Fellowship and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

- Mike Emery, University Media Relations