Willamette alumna earns National Science Foundation graduate fellowship

Willamette University graduate Natalie (Sashkin) Goldberg ’08 has earned a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship that will support her work in the neurobiology and behavior PhD program at University of California, Irvine starting in the fall.

The award provides almost $30,000 annually for up to three years to students with extraordinary promise in the sciences, mathematics or engineering.

Goldberg, who designed her own neuroscience major at Willamette, has been working as a research assistant at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), where she is developing murine models of Parkinson’s disease and investigating therapeutic interventions.

At UC-Irvine, she hopes to study neurodegeneration and mechanisms of repair in models of either spinal cord injury or Huntington’s disease.

“The fellowship will provide me with the opportunity to conduct a research project of my choice in whichever lab I end up in,” she says. “It will also support my participation in conferences and professional development programs.”

Goldberg started on her current path at Willamette, beginning when she designed her major in neuroscience and continuing when she earned a Willamette Carson Undergraduate Research Grant and a VA Medical Center research scholarship to conduct research at OHSU. She also was a biochemistry and biology tutor.

She was highly involved in sustainability efforts on campus. She started a club called Focus the Nation and worked with Economics Professor Don Negri to organize a Focus the Nation Climate Change Symposium at Willamette, part of a nationwide event in 2007.

Goldberg also worked for two years as the Portland Regional Coordinator for the Cascade Climate Network, a network of Northwest youth working to end the climate crisis and build a sustainable future.

“Willamette provided me with the inspiration to pursue and the freedom to follow the growth of my academic and personal interests,” she says. “So much of my inner scientist was fomented through interdepartmental exposure and support. And it was collaborative relationships between Willamette and OHSU faculty that helped me to form the bridge between college and my future.”


One Willamette student and one graduate earned honorable mentions for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Charlotte Osborne ’11, a chemistry major who earned the Goldwater Scholarship last year, plans to enter the chemistry PhD program at UC-Irvine in the fall. Lucas Nebert ’08, a chemistry and biology major who previously earned a Fulbright grant to the Netherlands, is conducting graduate work at the University of California, Davis.

For more information on national scholarships for students, visit Student Academic Grants and Awards.