The mission of the Goldwater Foundation is to identify and support the Nation’s next generation of scientific, mathematics and engineering research leaders. Letters of Recommendation play a critical role in helping the Goldwater Foundation identify this country’s most promising talent. We know that letters that convey meaningful insights into the student and the student’s abilities take time to write. The Foundation thanks all those who will take the time that is required to write meaningful letters of recommendation for this year’s Goldwater nominees.


From Research Mentors

As the Foundation is attempting to identify the next generation of research leaders, the insights research mentors have gained working with a student in a research environment are particularly critical. Your letter should help us:

    1) understand the context in which you know the student,

    2) gain an insight into what the student already knows and can do,

    3) gain an insight into what drives or motivates the student in research,

    4) understand how the student contributed to the work and how important the contribution was,

    5) assess such things as the student’s originality, intellectual daring, insight, creativity, perseverance and integrity by describing a specific instance where this was observed, and

    6) gain an insight into the likelihood that the student will become a successful research scientist, mathematician or engineer. Comparison with previous Goldwater Scholars or other students who have gone on to pursue successful research careers can provide valuable insights.

Examples that support statements are particularly valuable. Be as specific as possible.

From Others Who Know the Student

    1) A research active faculty member (or post-doc) who has observed a student conducting their research but who is not one of the student’s mentors should comment on the characteristics that make the student a successful research scientist, mathematician or engineer. Examples of such observations might include presentations given by the student that you have attended, or informal discussions you have had with the student about his/her work and career plans. Comparisons with others you have seen go on to successful research careers can be beneficial. Be as specific as possible.

    2) A student’s course instructor should discuss, when possible, aspects of the course that are pertinent to the student’s career research aspirations. In what ways does the student’s course performance predict research success? Describe how this student stands out from his/her peers. Can you compare this student to others you have taught that have gone on to successful research careers? Other observations that might be useful include presentations given by the student that you have attended or even informal discussions you have had with the student about their work and career plans. Provide examples and be as specific as possible.

In all of the above scenarios, it would be beneficial to engage in an in-depth discussion with the student about the student’s career aspirations and to ask the student for copies of materials he/she will be submitting as part of the Goldwater application.