Physics major wins Goldwater honor

A fascination with physics put Claire McLellan, a junior from Winchester, Va., on a path to win a Goldwater Scholarship.  McLellan was recently selected as one of 275 students from around the country to earn the scholarship for the 2011-2012 academic year.

The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,095 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by colleges and universities nationwide. The scholarship will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Receiving the scholarship “is an honor and shows how well Wake Forest prepared me to be a well-rounded scientist,” McLellan said.  She intends to research energy efficient lighting and pursue a doctorate in physics. “Optics was one of my favorite classes. I have always been fascinated by light.”

McLellan, who came to Wake Forest intending to be a physics major, said the chair of the department, Keith Bonin, has worked with her from the beginning and encouraged her to apply for the Goldwater. At the start of sophomore year she started working with Physics Professor Oana Jurchescu in the organic electronics group in the Wake Forest Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials.

“This work has important implications on development of applications based on organic (plastic) electronics,” Jurchescu said.   “Claire has co-authored two manuscripts and presented her results at several national and international meetings, including the Plastic Electronics conference in Dresden, Germany (October 2010), and the Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society, Dallas, TX (March 2011).”

Examples of plastic electronic applications include:  OLED (organic light emitting diode) TVs, flexible plastic solar cells, flexible displays, wearable (textile) electronics, and chemical and biological sensors.

“Working with organic electronics is very practical,” McLellan said.  “I am doing something that has a tangible result.”

McLellan also received a fellowship from the National Science Foundation and National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network and spent the summer in Japan performing research at the National Institute of Material Science (NIMS) in Japan.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater.  The program was designed to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.  The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.  A complete list of winners is available at

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