Striking Gold

Two students win prestigious Goldwater Scholarships, continuing the College’s run of success with the award for undergraduate research.


Two Kenyon students have been named winners of the Goldwater Scholarship, considered the premier award for undergraduate research in mathematics, engineering and the natural sciences.

Rachael Tomasko ’25.

Rachael Tomasko ’25, a double major in biology and environmental studies from Strongsville, Ohio, and Dominick Frost ’26, a physics major from Kalamazoo, Michigan, were among the 438 scholars — only 16 of them from Ohio institutions — selected for the award this year.

The honor, intended for students who plan to continue their research in graduate school, provides each winner with up to $7,500 for tuition and other education-related expenses. According to the Goldwater Foundation, 1,353 science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 446 academic institutions for this year’s awards, from an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors.

Kenyon students are frequently recognized by the competitive program — they’ve been named winners nine times in the past five years — after being nominated by College faculty through a rigorous screening process.

Tomasko, a STEM scholar who currently is studying abroad in the rainforests of Australia, aims to pursue a doctorate in ecology before entering a career in academia.

She has had an interest in nature — and aquatic plants in particular — since she was a young child growing up with a forest and creek behind her house. That her research interests would gravitate towards wetlands seemed only natural.

“Wetlands were this perfect spot where there was a lot of biodiversity and a lot of water, and they're really interesting places for me,” Tomasko said. “Historically, 90% of the wetlands in Ohio have been drained and destroyed, so wanting to restore wetlands and particularly wanting to preserve nature has been a really important part of me.”

Her initiative to make a difference immediately made an impression on Siobhan Fennessy, a biology professor and Philip and Sheila Jordan Professor of Environmental Studies.

“Rachael appeared at my door before her first day of classes at Kenyon (as a first year) to tell me of her love for plants and aquatic ecosystems, and ask if she could get involved in research. A student asking this before their classes began was a first, and it speaks to her passion for science,” Fennessy wrote in a letter of recommendation. “Her enthusiasm, intelligence and spark convinced me to say yes.”

A Summer Science Scholar, Tomasko has been particularly inspired by her work with Fennessy on a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — and led by former student Ellen Herbert ’07 — that focuses on evaluating how wetland restoration in agricultural landscapes can help mitigate climate change. 

“Siobhhan has opened me up to so many opportunities and connections through the project,” Tomasko said. “It's given me guidance and someone to look up to see how to achieve what I want to achieve.”

A photography buff, Tomasko also works in the Kenyon greenhouse and tutors her peers at the Math and Science Skills Center. A volunteer at the Cleveland Metroparks back home, she’ll be working there this summer as an outdoor experience specialist.

Dominick Frost '26.

Dominick Frost aims to combine his interests in biology and physics during future graduate studies that he hopes will lead to work in industrial biophysics research.

“I've had a lot of fun with the physics technology and stuff like the optical equipment we use, and I also really enjoy the biological problems side to biology. So I’m interested in taking physics technology and applying it to biological problems to find new solutions,” he said.

Associate Professor of Physics Aaron Reinhard, a faculty mentor for Frost who also serves as campus representative to the Goldwater program, said that the student’s work in his ultracold atom lab has been nothing short of magnificent.

“He is really creative and can see to the heart of a problem and finds solutions in very, very clever ways.” Reinhard said. “He's a really thoughtful and quick student and has a real enthusiasm for experimental physics.”

Frost’s promising work in Joan Slonczewski’s antibiotic resistance lab led the professor of biology to say that he is likely to make “major discoveries” in the field of biophysics.

“Dominick shows the highest integrity in all his work, and he is a pleasure to have in our lab,” she wrote in a letter of support. “His exceptional intellectual depth, combined with initiative and sustained effort, make him a highly promising candidate for advanced research.” 

Frost, a Summer Science Scholar, said he’s grateful for the ample — and intriguing — research opportunities that have been afforded to him as an underclassman at Kenyon.

“The summer before my freshman year, I got an email about working in Dr. S's bacteria lab. I thought that looked really cool and so I did that. That kind of got my foot in the door right off the bat with doing research at Kenyon,” he said.

A member of the Ballroom Dance Club and the Squash Club, Frost also plays the euphonium and is part of the Pep Band.  

Goldwater Scholars often go on to win a variety of additional awards in their fields, including National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, Rhodes Scholarships and more. The Goldwater Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Sen. Barry Goldwater and to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers. 

Kenyon students have won at least 40 Goldwaters and eight honorable mentions over the history of the program that started in 1989. That’s a reflection of the top-tier work being done by students across the sciences in Gambier, according to Reinhard.

“Our students are super talented. They're motivated, they have wonderful attitudes and do really impressive work,” he said. “A lot of our students are doing research that would be competitive with graduate students at other schools.”