COVID Stops Travel Plans, But Awards Keep Coming for Honors Student

Published on July 22, 2020

For the EKU Honors Program’s rising senior Biology major Nicholas Koenig, the summer of 2020 was all set to be a grand, intercontinental learning adventure with stops in far-flung locales in Germany, Arkansas, and Utah.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of all travel plans, Koenig had become the first EKU student ever to win a prestigious DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Fellowship. The award, sponsored by the German government, was to allow him to spend the bulk of the summer interning in the botany laboratories at the University of Münster in northwestern Germany, where he was slated to work with two internationally renowned professors on an ongoing research project on biochemistry and plant evolution.

"Of course I was excited to spend the summer in Germany, but COVID has given me time to focus on the flora of Kentucky before I graduate which I am super thankful for. Next summer I am going to reapply in hopes of going to Germany to botanize and research," Koenig said.

Before his scheduled departure for Germany, Koenig had also planned to “squeeze in” a one-week National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) “Partners in the Parks” canoe adventure study program at Buffalo National River in Arkansas in late May. To support this trip, he applied for and received a research travel stipend from the Southern Regional Honors Council (SRHC) as well as a “Trailblazer Grant” from the EKU Honors Program. As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the nation in March, Koenig learned that the NCHC had announced the cancellation of all of its summer 2020 Partners in the Parks programs.

Finally, Koenig had also applied for and been accepted for a prestigious position as a student editor for UReCA: The NCHC Web Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity.  Service on this editorial board required a four-day training in June at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah with fellow student editors from honors colleges and honors programs across the nation.

Koenig had obtained permission from his supervising professors at Münster to take five days off from the research lab in order to fly back to the USA to attend this training.  While the trip to Bryce Canyon was likewise cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he and his fellow honors student editors did in fact complete their required training last month as an online experience.

With his ambitious travel plans dashed for now, Koenig has spent his summer closer to home, while still pursuing his research interests through laboratory work in the EKU’s Biology Department and field work in EKU’s research station at Letcher County’s Lilley Cornett Woods. 

Koenig was only the fourth Colonel to receive the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship last May.