» By Brittany Hickey
For the second year in a row, APSU can claim two of its students as Goldwater Scholars. Physics student Chris Hayes and math student Kristen Knight won two of the 271 scholarships awarded nationwide to science, math and engineering college students in March.
“I didn’t have time to play mind games with myself and wonder what my actual chances were,” Knight said. “So, I honestly pushed it to the back of my mind and kept plugging away.”
Hayes was initially uncertain of his chances as well but was happy his first impressions were proved wrong.
Only 95 of the scholars chosen were women and only 27 were in the field of mathematics, and Knight was among them. Knight has shifted this year from being an average driven student to a researcher who has presented at conferences and been published. Her research focuses on improving the way data is analyzed.
“Data analysis is not something that just affects statisticians,” Knight explained. “Nearly any field uses data for studies.”
At summer Research Experience for Undergraduate programs at Louisiana State University and the University of Michigan, Hayes gained experience that aided in his research and application for the Goldwater Scholarship. In the physics department, Hayes has researched the force that binds all matter together, called the “strong force.”
“The study of the strong force, called quantum chromodynamics, has two distinct features which cause it to be a bit wonky,” Hayes said. “I use computer algorithms to study the effect that this force has on the principle particles of the strong force called quarks.”
The APSU undergraduates were just two of 1,107 applicants for the scholarship. According to the foundation’s website, many Goldwater Scholars have gone on to become Rhodes Scholars. The scholarship awards funds for tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.
Both Hayes and Knight, like many Goldwater Scholars, intend on pursuing doctorates and eventually teaching at universities while continuing their research.