May 11, 2020 | Science, Technology and Math , Featured

Columbia State Alumna Awarded Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Ximena in a lab.
Photo Caption: Ximena Leon works in a Howard Hughes Medical Institute lab through the undergrad research program at Columbia State.

(COLUMBIA, Tenn.  May 11, 2020) - - -Columbia State Community College alumna, Ximena Leon, was recently awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“I was thrilled to hear that I am a 2020 recipient for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship,” Leon said. “After years of hard work, it feels like everything is finally paying off. This scholarship will open many more doors in my future, and I am excited to see where it takes me.”

During her time at Columbia State, under the mentorship of Dr. Elvira Eivazova, Columbia State assistant professor of biology, Leon built an impressive portfolio of achievements that made her a strong candidate for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Leon worked on DNA barcoding, a fermentation project, as well as bacteriophage discovery and bacteriophage bioinformatics research assignments. 

“My passion for scientific research began at Columbia State where I was introduced to research in molecular and cellular biology, microbiology and bioinformatics in an Introduction to Biology Research course led by Dr. Elvira Eivazova,” Leon said. “After exposure to scientific research, I knew that biomedical research, more specifically molecular and cellular biology, was the career path I wanted to take because it aligned perfectly with my passion for scientific discovery and my desire to make a significant contribution to the medical field.”

Through Columbia State’s undergraduate research program, Leon was exposed to a broad range of scholarly opportunities. Leon attended a Howard Hughes Medical Institute phage discovery training workshop and had several opportunities to present her results at undergraduate research conferences, including the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative, the American Society for Microbiology and the Tennessee Academy of Science.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve my students and to be able to contribute to their academic success,” Eivazova said. “I am extremely honored that Columbia State produces such outstanding students and am beyond proud of Ximena.”

Leon is currently enrolled at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga where she is studying biology. In the future, Leon wants to earn a doctorate in molecular and cellular biology, conduct research in biomedical science and teach at the university level. Eventually, she wants to create a high school/undergraduate research program.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to serve as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate. Learn more about the Barry Goldwater Scholarship at