Breakthrough (College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics)

UH College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics Breakthrough (College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics)

Mathematical Biology Major Gabrielle Kostecki: A 2023 Goldwater Scholar

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.

Strong Undergraduate Research Background

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 participated in research on a COVID-19 vaccine under the guidance of Haile and psychology professor Therese Kosten.

She 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 biology and biochemistry professor Ann Cheek with work for the Urban Wildlife Conservation Network.

The Goldwater Scholarship is one of Kostecki’s latest accomplishments at UH. This spring, she was 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.

Overcoming Personal Hardships

Kostecki 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.”

Plans for Research Career

Kostecki, who is also a student in the Honors College, 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.”

Mike Emery, University Media Relations