Nationally recognized Rebel scholars recount advice and experience

UNLV undergraduates Faria Tavacoli (left) and Vesper Evereux (right) were selected for the nationally competitive Goldwater Scholarship for 2023. (Becca Schwartz/UNLV)

As the end of the spring semester draws nearer, Rebels across the university are being acknowledged for the work they have done this academic year, these two Rebels share stories of particular their recognition, and finally their advice.

The Office of Media Relations uplifted a few of these nationally recognized Rebels and two provided some insight into their successes.

The first student scholarship recipient I spoke to for this story was junior political science major, Zachary Billot. Billot is a member of the honors college and is now the recipient of the Truman Scholarship. Billot was one of 62 Truman recipients this year, and the only one from the state of Nevada.

Billot began to detail the work that led him to this scholarship qualification, beginning with research work on campus. “First off, at Brookings Mountain West I currently work as a member of the research team. That experience has offered me an opportunity to be a published author for professional policy-based research.” 

Zachary Billot Truman Scholar 2023 Major: Political Science Junior April 11, 2023 (Becca Schwartz\UNLV)

Billot explained that his extracurriculars included Model United Nations, the political science honors society and formerly student government.

Billot continued to explain that in addition to the type of activities that are selected, the way in which a student serves can also make an impact. “Ultimately in each of these positions I valued serving my community as the most important aspect of my work and that’s what makes a Great Truman candidate,” Billot said.

As the discussion focused on research, Billot explained the opportunity and also the importance of personal and professional development in college. 

“I absolutely believe that students should be engaged in as many extracurricular activities as they can handle. Research in particular is a great opportunity to not only expand your academic but also your professional skills,” Billot said.

Students looking to get involved in research on campus were advised to reach out to department faculty for more information. Billot said, “Undoubtedly this work, both on and off-campus, has increased the value of my college experience tenfold.”

Finally, Billot noted that opportunities exist but ultimately students are often the ones in their own way. 

“Ultimately, if there’s something that you as a student want to accomplish the only thing stopping you is yourself. That’s my ultimate piece of advice for students.” 

The next student who spoke to the Free Press about scholarship recipience was sophomore mechanical engineering major, Vesper Evereux. 

Evereux received the Barry Goldwater scholarship for students in STEM after creating a specific educational path that combines the areas of fashion, prosthetics and engineering.

Evereux explained that published lab research was a core part of his application. 

“My eligibility as a sophomore was based on the research I did under Da Kine Lab. I worked in multiple areas including surfactant-enhanced boiling heat transfer, hydrogel synthesization, and atmospheric water harvesting,” Evereux said.

In addition to the experience that went into his application, Evereux also credits his eligibility to the decision to apply as a sophomore. Noting that the application was long.

An additional topic discussed was the reason students get involved with research and applying knowledge to areas of interest. Evereux explained, “As far as my career goes, I got into research because I love it. I love the whole process of breaking things down, figuring out what makes them work, and making discoveries from that new information.” 

Evereux continued to explain that the value of research comes not only from the lab and publications but also from the personal skills, critical thinking and communication that are learned along the way.

In addition to learning about personal connection in an academic space, Evereux also noted the way research can shift one’s perspective on learning. Evereux added, “It taught me to be comfortable with failure and to view it as an asset rather than a liability – I’m hoping to bring that with me as I apply for things in the future such as grad school and beyond.” 

When asked about advice to other students Evereux encourages others to follow their goals. He said, “Do what you love terrified rather than not at all. The kinds of people that I look up to aren’t the best or the brightest or the most gifted but those that are unabashedly nerdy about things they love.” 

While the values discussed above can come from any variety of work environments, Evereux also emphasized the importance of being passionate about the work you follow. 

“It’s hard not to get swept up by that enthusiasm being shared and bonding over that — I think that quality is quintessential when it comes to excelling at something long-term. If it’s not fun or enthralling, it’s gonna be hard to stay,” he added. 

Evereux ended his note with a comment about perceptions of work and self. “The feeling of not being good enough or smart enough or [blank] enough never truly goes away, it’s kind of part of the whole improvising being a functional human being thing.” 

These feelings, however, are another described instance where students can work to grow through these various challenges.

The takeaway from this and Evereux’s last main point was, “You will figure it out, trust yourself.”

Students were encouraged not to rush as everyone’s academic career and life set their own pace. Evereux’s final advice to fellow Rebels read, “Take it slow and explore your options, or gun it to the finish line in a blaze, people are different so do what you vibe with the most—just make sure you’re having at least a bit of fun. You got this.”


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