Junior Patrick Ihejirika, a Psychology major, has been named a 2021 Goldwater Scholar. Ihejirika, who wants to become a neurologist, joins Abiha Kazmi, another 2021 recipient, as only the second and third Brooklyn College students to win the award, one of the country’s most prestigious for undergraduate students who want to go into research in science, math, or engineering. It was established by Congress in 1986 to ensure that the country had enough professionals in those fields. The scholarship covers a student’s tuition and fees and room and board, minus any support they already have from other sources.

Ihejirika spoke about the application process, staying up all night before the award was announced, and his future plans:

BC: Congratulations, this is a very prestigious award. The application process for the Goldwater is rigorous and competitive. What made you apply?

PI: I knew that medicine was my path because I am intrigued by the research on Alzheimer’s, predictive memory models, cognitive neuroscience, and other things. My ambition to research solutions for neural diseases ignited my application process. I was never certain I was going to be accepted. I stayed up all night waiting on the response. The moment my sister read my acceptance email is still surreal for me.

BC: What made you focus on cognitive neuroscience?

PI: I think I was speaking with my mother and contemplating how forgetful I am with her demands when I realized how memory diseases challenge people. I became fascinated with this topic. I wanted to learn the theoretical answers neuroscience can provide to memory loss. Having a psychology background is a step towards building my understanding of neural functions

BC: In addition to the funding, you also become a part of their community of scholars. That must be exciting.

PI: When I learned about how this program networks its members for research inspiration and peer-to-peer learning, there was nothing else I wanted more than to be a member of the community. This scholarship program will enable me to interplay with like-minded future medical theorists and practitioners. It is the best gift for my aspirations.

BC: How do you think earning this prestigious scholarship will change your career trajectory?

PI: I am uncertain about how this opportunity will shape my career. I am aware of the numerous resources that will greatly benefit my path to neurology, yet, I am very anxious to witness just how everything will pan out. This is like when you win, but the game isn’t over because there is still so much work to do. I want to be brave and use all the resources provided by the Goldwater Foundation. I want to be a researcher that comes up with solutions for many neural diseases.