Richard MonskyDeer Park, NY
Richard Monsky ’20, a chemistry major in the Honors Program from Deer Park, New York, has become the latest Marist student to receive a prestigious and nationally competitive Barry Goldwater Scholarship. The Goldwater, named after the late US Senator from Arizona, provides scholarships to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering. This year, fewer than 500 Goldwater Scholarships were awarded nationally, placing Monsky in an elite group. The other winners represented a range of colleges and universities across the country, including Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia, Stanford, Yale, the University of Chicago, and Johns Hopkins.
Faculty mentorship and research have been the keys to Monsky’s academic success thus far, but he credits his father with convincing him to attend Marist in the first place. “I had originally planned to study computer science in college and applied only to technical colleges. My father, who knew the Marist name, persuaded me to apply here. Which was a really good thing, because I soon realized that I didn’t enjoy coding. Fortunately, Marist provided me with other options.” After trying out a few different science majors, chemistry turned out to be the option that really captured Monsky’s imagination. According to him, “When I took organic chemistry, everything changed for me. I absolutely loved all of the topics. You could say that I found my calling.”
And Monsky has brought that same enthusiasm to the research lab, accumulating meaningful research experiences both on the Marist campus and beyond. He completed a semester of biology research as a sophomore with Visiting Affiliate Assistant Professor of Biology Nicholas Andrews and Associate Professor of Biology Paula Checchi. Beginning his junior year, he has conducted organic materials research with Associate Professor of Chemistry Jocelyn Nadeau on the synthesis and characterization of solvatochromic molecules, and he recently presented this work at the spring American Chemical Society National Meeting in Orlando, Florida. Nadeau has been extremely impressed with Monsky, noting that “he is already functioning at the graduate level with his overall academic intensity and his voracious appetite and aptitude for solving complex synthesis problems.” Last summer, Monsky completed a 10-week National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at New York University conducting organic synthesis research in Dr. Keith Woerpel’s research group, a placement that clarified his research interests and gave him an inside look at the life of a graduate student. He will add to his research resume this summer with another REU in chemistry, this time at North Carolina State University.
Nadeau, the faculty member whose organic chemistry class changed Monsky’s trajectory, went on to be his advisor and mentor, ultimately helping him put together his successful Goldwater application (all 20 drafts of it). She observes, “It has been a privilege to teach, mentor, and conduct research with an exceptional scholar and budding scientist like Rich. He is incredibly talented at organic chemistry, and it has been rewarding for me to foster his growing fascination with a subject that I am so passionate about.” For his part, Monsky is fully aware how valuable faculty guidance can be to a student’s career. As he puts it, “Professor Nadeau’s mentorship has meant everything to me. I’ve never felt so much control over my future or looked as far ahead as I do now.”
And Monsky’s future does indeed look bright. Being a Goldwater scholar is a stamp of approval of sorts, a testament to that student’s aptitude for research. It’s also an honor that can help open doors, including to the most elite graduate programs in the country. After this summer’s REU in North Carolina, Monsky will head into his senior year at Marist to finish his American Chemical Society-certified BS in chemistry degree. He’ll also apply to highly selective doctorate programs in chemistry and pursue an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to help fund his studies. Based on his experience as a graduate student, Monsky will decide whether to stay in academia or pursue a career in industry. Nadeau has her own prediction about his future. “A running joke between Rich and me since his sophomore year is that someday he will have a chemical reaction named after him, a holy grail in organic chemistry. Except for me it is less of a joke because I know it is only a matter of time!”