Warhill High Alumna Receives Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

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During an annual poster session at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Warhill High School alumna Brook Byrd presents her research in the monitoring and calibration of a drift chamber as well as 3-D visualization of particle simulations at Jefferson Lab. (Photo courtesy Bob Byrd)
During an annual poster session at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Warhill High School alumna Brook Byrd presents her research in the monitoring and calibration of a drift chamber as well as 3-D visualization of particle simulations at Jefferson Lab. (Photo courtesy Clare Maliniak)

One of 252 students in the country named a Goldwater Scholar, Warhill High School alumna Brook Byrd is Christopher Newport University’s first recipient of the prestigious scholarship.

Byrd is a rising senior at the Newport News university and is majoring in applied physics. She is also a part of the President’s Leadership Program, a member of the women’s tennis team and carries a 4.0 GPA.

Established by Congress in 1986 in honor of Sen. Barry Goldwater from Arizona, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship Foundation provides a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields.

Byrd is quick to direct the attention of her success to her university, which she said cares for the minds and hearts of students.

“I believe this award speaks to the growing success of the entire academic system, not just the individual,” Byrd said. “Our college has transformed from a commuter school to a school that is becoming known for high academic achievements.”

One such opportunity Byrd has taken advantage of is a partnership with nearby Jefferson Lab, a public research lab offering various programs to students, researchers and the public.

Byrd will spend the early part of summer at the lab conducting research on the physics of medical imaging, a field she will likely pursue at the graduate level. She will then travel to Harvard University this summer, where she has received a highly competitive Research Experience for Undergraduates internship.

Byrd said she chose applied physics because she loves how it can be used to better understand the fundamental elements and improve life on Earth in the future.

Her love of community and family serves as her motivation and passion for studying physics, which she plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in medical physics in order to find better ways to treat and diagnose cancer and other terminal illnesses.

“I think every single person deserves to have a happy family, and the one thing that separates family unexpectedly like nothing else is cancer,” Byrd said. “It affects 600,000 families each year. Helping families stay together has been my motivation for conducting research.”

Byrd’s current internship is in breast cancer imaging and diagnostics.

“My devotion to family is what has driven me to want to be the best researcher and to hopefully help out families in the future,” Byrd said.