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Scroggins Earns Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

Jakob Scroggins was selected as a 2024 Goldwater Scholar, one of the most prestigious scholastic awards that an undergraduate student in the United States can achieve.

Scroggins, a junior in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), plans to earn a PhD and continue to conduct research on sustainable development of energy-storage devices.

“It is really gratifying and just feels good to be recognized,” Scroggins said. “Not only for my work, but the work of my mentors and professors and the people around me who are investing in the things I am doing.”

The Goldwater scholarship provides up to $7,500 annually to college sophomores and juniors intending to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

A total of 438 Goldwater scholarships were awarded for the 2024-25 academic year. From an estimated pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1,353 science, engineering, and mathematics students were nominated by 446 academic institutions to compete for 2024 Goldwater scholarships.

Thirty UT students have been selected for the honor since 2010.

The first thing Scroggins did once he learned about the scholarship was text his parents, sister, and close friends. Beyond the prestige of the honor, the scholarship has practical implications for Scroggins and his family.

“I am from a small town in northwestern Missouri, so out-of-state tuition is something I have dealt with and planned for the whole time I have been here at Tennessee,” said Scroggins, a Platte City, Missouri native. “This will be a significant help in the financial regard and then also something that should continue to help me in getting opportunities along the road.”

Scroggins’ mentors are Joint UT Professor David Harper, Professor and Associate Department Head David Keffer, and MSE alumna Lu Yu. During the semester, Scroggins works with Harper at the UT Institute of Agriculture’s Center for Renewable Carbon (CRC), where he investigates lignin-derived carbon fibers that can be used as supercapacitor electrodes.

He took part in the US Department of Energy’s Summer Undergraduate Laboratory Internship last summer in the Battery Manufacturing Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Scroggins worked on the development of a novel, versatile, and water-based method for delaminating anode films from copper current collectors that takes advantage of the chemical properties in surfactant and a salt.

“He really stands out as a student. He picks up things really quickly,” Harper said. “He is self-motivated and driven, but he is quiet, humble and easy going as well. He is not afraid to try and figure things out by himself and not afraid to pitch in when you ask him to do things. He works well with others.”

The Goldwater Scholarship Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor US Senator Barry M Goldwater. Scroggins hopes one day he will be mentoring a student who earns the same prestigious honor.

“My goal is to be a professor and do research and teach the next generation of scientists and engineers to solve the cutting-edge problems of the future,” he said. “That is the path I see myself going, and this recognition is very exciting and makes me think the work I am doing is valued.”