Scholarship winner hopes to set example

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    By Heather McKee

    Diana Istook admits her road to success has been far from routine. In fact, she has termed it a “meandering route” that has led her to receive a prestigious fellowship.

    The 24-year-old Oklahoma resident said she hopes other women follow in the footsteps she has set and pursue their dreams.

    Istook was 1 of 11 BYU graduates who received a $27,500 annual stipend and $10,500 for tuition from the National Science Foundation. Istook, the only woman from BYU to receive this award, said she was thrilled and honored to accept it.

    “I hope this teaches women that it”s possible to have a balance and be successful in academics as well as in other personal areas,” she said.

    Istook said she believes her unique writing and background gave her the one-up on other applicants. Istook”s essay for the application discussed how she has overcome the LDS culture, which she feels sometimes makes women shy away from accomplishing things. She said women should explore all of their options and then make a decision and just be confident that it will all fall into place.

    Istook”s ”meandering road” started at BYU where she graduated in math education with a minor in English. She had initially planned on teaching at the high school level, but after a year she decided that it was not the career for her.

    She took a short trip to the University of Utah but then decided to go back to her home state of Oklahoma and attend Oklahoma University”s biostatistics master”s program.

    “I lost a year of grad school,” she said, “but it gave me a lot more breadth.”

    In Fall 2004 she will start her doctorate at the University of Iowa in statistical genetics, planning to pursue a career as a university professor.

    Istook credits BYU”s amazing faculty members with constantly encouraging her and investing time in her education and goals for the future. She also said the BYU”s math education curriculum was rigorous, but beneficial.

    The other winners from BYU include: Bryan Catanzaro, Michael Cherry, Robert Franklin, Nathaniel Fredin, Keric Hill, Christopher Monson, Justin Peacock, John Russ, Jeremy Wendt and David Wingate.

    The National Science Foundation has many criteria when viewing the applicants and deciding to whom to grant the fellowship including test scores, GPA and essays.

    “The foundation is looking for those who will be the scientific leaders in the future,” said Ross Spencer, a professor of physics and astronomy and a faculty coach for students in the College of Natural Sciences.

    BYU ranked 17th in the nation, tying with schools such as the California Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan based on the number of fellowships awarded per institution.

    “Being in the company of such prestigious institutions tells us that our efforts to encourage and fund student mentoring are helping us move in the right direction,” said Gary R. Hooper, BYU associate academic vice president for research.

    Spencer agreed that this honor was not only to the students but also to the university as a whole.

    “That”s the academic equivalent of having a good football team,” Spencer said. “It”s reputation.”

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