Alison Farrar, a junior at the University of Alabama and a 2014 valedictorian of South Pasadena High School and National Merit Scholar who attended SPUSD since kindergarten at Monterey Hills Elementary School, has been named a 2017-2018 Goldwater Scholar as one of 240 undergraduates in the country to receive the honor.
Farrar is studying biophysics and mathematics on a pre-med track. She is a member of the Computer-Based Honors (CBH) research program. Her work investigates anisotropic damping, a recently discovered micromagnetic phenomenon useful in areas such as “quantum computing” and using nanoparticles to attack cancer cells. Her primary mentor is Dr. Claudia Mewes, who leads UA’s spintronics lab.
Farrar has previously conducted research on MRI technology during high school at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with Dr. John Wood and spent a summer during college investigating anaerobic bacteria at USC with Dr. Kenneth Nealson, the Wrigley Chair in environmental studies.
At University of Alabama, Farrar is vice president of the International Students Assn., which promotes intercultural diversity, and visits local schools to encourage young women and girls to pursue careers in science and math. She also volunteers regularly at the nearby Good Samaritan Medical Clinic, where she helps to provide lab services at the only free medical and dental care facility in northwest Alabama.
Farrar, who holds a 4.0 grade point average and hopes to pursue a career in medical research as an M.D.-Ph.D., also has been given this year’s Henry Pettus Randall, Jr. scholarship. The award recognizes Farrar as the top rising senior among CBH’s Randall Research Award winners.
This summer, Farrar will participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where she will study nanotechnology in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University Medical School.
Her parents are Frank and Dana Farrar of South Pasadena. Her mother graduated from SPHS in 1982, and her younger sister, Charlotte, is currently a freshman. The family is active in the community and at St. James’ Episcopal Church.
This year’s Goldwater Scholars were selected from 1,286 students at 470 institutions, which each nominated up to four students. The award, named for the late Arizona senator, is widely considered the highest U.S. honor for undergraduates in science, math and engineering. All four of the University of Alabama’s nominees received the award this year, capping a track record in which UA has had the most Goldwater scholars of any U.S. college or university since 2007, with Harvard second. The University of Alabama will recognize its four awardees at an April 24 ceremony.