Skip to main content

Two Villanova University Students Named Goldwater Scholars

Villanova University students Lily Day and Catherine Petretti have been named 2021 Goldwater Scholars by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.
Villanova University students Lily Day (top left) and Catherine Petretti (top right) have been named 2021 Goldwater Scholars by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

VILLANOVA, Pa.—Villanova University students Lily Day and Catherine Petretti have been named 2021 Goldwater Scholars by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. Day and Petretti are juniors in Villanova’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and were selected from more than 1,200 institution-nominated students nationwide.

“The continued selection of Villanovans as Goldwater Scholars highlights the commitment of our student-researchers, both in the lab and in the classroom,” said University Provost Patrick G. Maggitti, PhD. “This renowned program has served as a critical springboard for the University’s recent honorees, many of whom have gone on to excel in other prestigious, national scholarship programs. I congratulate Lily and Catherine on this honor and thank the Villanova faculty and staff who have helped them achieve their academic goals.”

Day is a Biology major with minors in Philosophy and Honors. Her interest in ecology, along with early research experience in songbird hybridization, has motivated her to pursue a research career. As a first-year student, Day joined the research group of Robert Curry, PhD, professor of Biology, as a Match Research Program grantee, studying the effect of hybridization on Pennsylvania chickadees. In 2019, she was awarded a Sprows Family Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellowship (VURF) to continue her work with Dr. Curry. Day’s work has been featured in Veritas: Villanova Research Journal. She plans to pursue graduate studies and build her research career in molecular ecology. Beyond the classroom, she is a clarinetist with the Villanova Band, volunteered at a domestic violence shelter in Philadelphia as part of her Sophomore Service Learning Community, and is a teaching assistant in General Chemistry.

Petretti is an Astronomy and Astrophysics major with minors in Mathematics and Classics. As a career researcher, she plans to study cosmology and particle astrophysics. Petretti was also a Match Research Program grantee in her first year at the University, working with the astrophysics group of Joey Neilsen, PhD, assistant professor of Physics. Her work on interpreting infrared data from the black hole X-ray binary GRO J1655-40 sparked her interest in research, and she continued this project through a VURF in 2019. In 2020, she received an NSF summer research fellowship at the MIT Haystack Observatory. Petretti is a leader in the Astronomical Society and Physics Club, as well as a Physics and Astronomy teaching assistant, with plans to make mentorship a focal point of her career as an astrophysics professor. She is also a musician, playing the clarinet in the Villanova Symphonic Orchestra and Villanova Student Musical Theatre.

The Goldwater Foundation awards $7,500 scholarships to sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics or engineering. It is widely considered the preeminent award for undergraduates preparing for research careers in STEM. Recent Villanova Goldwater honorees went on to become Knight-Hennessy Scholars, Marshall Scholars, NSF Graduate Research Fellows, and Fulbright Student Grant recipients.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who served for 30 years in the United States Senate. The program is designed to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. For more information, visit the Goldwater Scholarship website.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit