Laurel native named MSU’s newest Goldwater Scholar

Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Miss.—For the fourth time in seven years, a Mississippi State University student has received the highly coveted Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

Nicholas A. “Nic” Ezzell, a senior physics major from Laurel, is the land-grant institution’s newest recipient of the prestigious award and the only Mississippian to receive the honor this year. Ezzell, who has accumulated significant research experience as an undergraduate student, is a member of MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College.

Established in 1986, the Virginia-based Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation serves as a memorial to the former U.S. Republican senator from Arizona and 1964 presidential candidate. In annually recognizing undergraduate majors in science, mathematics, engineering and computer disciplines, it helps ensure a continuing source of highly qualified professionals in these fields. For more, visit

“The Goldwater Scholarship recognizes Nic’s remarkable achievements as an undergraduate researcher across disciplines—in both physics and chemistry,” said Tommy Anderson, professor of English and director of the Shackouls Honors College’s Office of Prestigious External Scholarships. “The scholarship is a testament to Nic’s dedication to path-breaking research and to sharing this research at conferences and in peer-reviewed scientific publications across the region and nation. The award recognizes as well the transformative mentorship Nic has received as an undergraduate researcher in the Shackouls Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences.”

Nicholas A. "Nic" Ezzell (Photo by Beth Wynn)

Ezzell is an aspiring computational physicist. At MSU, his primary research adviser is Associate Professor of Chemistry Nicholas Fitzkee. Ezzell also has researched extensively with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he worked under the guidance of Miguel Fuentes-Cabrera.

This summer, Ezzell will return to Oak Ridge to work on the development of quantum computing software. Three years into his college career, Ezzell has presented his research to the American Physical Society and is a listed author on a paper accepted into Biophysical Journal, among other research accomplishments.

“The Goldwater Scholarship is an encouraging message that my trajectory has yet to falter and that more than just my adviser and immediate peers recognize my potential as a serious scientific researcher,” Ezzell said. “In short, it’s an affirmation that the work I do matters.”

“I have many thanks to give to my mentors at Mississippi State,” Ezzell added. “Of critical importance was my primary research advisor Dr. Nicholas Fitzkee, who helped me navigate the world of computational protein biochemistry, but more importantly, that of problem solving as a scientist in general. For his mentorship alone, I would qualify my research experience at MSU as excellent, but I’d be remiss not to mention the assistance of countless others at MSU, such as Dr. Dipangkar Dutta, Dr. Thomas Anderson, and Dean Chris Snyder. I look forward to where my trajectory lands as I look toward graduate school and beyond.”

Since its inception, the Goldwater Foundation has recognized a total of 25 Mississippi State students—17 with the Goldwater Scholarship and eight with honorable mention awards. This year, 1,280 students from 455 institutions were nominated for a Goldwater Scholarship. The Goldwater Foundation named 211 new Goldwater Scholars.

For more about MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College, visit

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