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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona senior blasts off into scholarship success by winning the Goldwater and Astronaut Scholarships


    Courtesy of Travis Sawyer 

    A UA senior studying optical sciences and engineering is raking in the scholarship money. Travis Sawyer received the Astronaut Scholarship, again. Sawyer, who was also named a Goldwater Scholar in 2015, is first two-time winner of the Astronaut Scholarship at the UA.

    The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has a clear mission: “To aid the United States in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing college scholarships for the very best and brightest students,” according to its website. Being selected for nationally competitive scholarships such as the Goldwater scholarship or Astronaut Scholarship is time-intensive. A strong application needs to be written, reconstructed and polished until it produces a coherent story of a student’s accomplishments worthy of national attention.

    Although he has found academic success now, Sawyer did not always think of himself as a model student. 

    “I wasn’t completely committed at first. I saw school as an obstacle I had to get through,” Sawyer said. “However, I changed my mind through interaction with my professors and treated these undergraduate years as an opportunity to educate myself.”

    Sawyer serves as an Optics Ambassador and the coordinator in outreach programs for the College of Optical Sciences. He keeps his hands full in a research lab where he works on image processing and software design.

    Dr. Mike Nofziger, a professor and outreach coordinator for the Department of Optical Sciences, and Dr. John Greivenkamp, a professor of optical sciences and ophthalmology, were two faculty mentors that gave Sawyer a different mentality in approaching classroom settings. 

    “Travis is very driven to be the very best he can be,” Greivenkamp said. “He is trying to take advantage of all the opportunities in the college.” 

    As Sawyer moves from the classroom to real-world learning environments, he finds that being involved in activities, such as his senior project, gives him a different perspective on learning. Nofziger, who is Sawyer’s senior project mentor, agreed and said, “Success requires much different thinking than ‘… just solving problems at the back of the textbook!’ ” 

    Even when motivation may start to fade, keeping in the right environment is something that allows determination to stay alive—as it did with Sawyer. 

    “Challenge yourself to see how good you can be,” Sawyer said. 

    Having many faculty mentors invested in his education instilled in Sawyer the goal to become the same source of inspiration. He hopes to attend graduate school and obtain his Ph.D. to become a professor in the future. 

    Sawyer said he wants to teach students what he has learned in these past four years. 

    “When you come to school, you’re placed in a sea of ignorance,” he said. “And as you progress, you create islands of knowledge. And the end goal is to connect the islands, so you have a continent of knowledge with lakes of ignorance.”

    Follow Priyanka Hadvani on Twitter.

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