Hampden-Sydney has become a regular on the Goldwater Scholarship awards list over the past few years—posting five winners of the national scholarship in the past seven years alone. The excitement continues this year as the College announces its first ever physics department recipient, Tyler Howerton ’21.
Tyler is the sixth Hampden-Sydney student to receive the Goldwater Scholarship, which represents the highest level of undergraduate achievement in natural sciences, math, and engineering. A physics major and math minor with a 4.00 GPA, Tyler is also a starting offensive lineman on the Tiger Football team, a member of the 2019 Academic All-America® Division III Football First Team, and a two-time Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) All-Academic Team member.
“Tyler is, without a doubt, the best student I have ever had,” says Mike McDermott, Hampden-Sydney dean of the faculty and professor of physics and astronomy. “He is exceedingly bright, motivated, and personable. He not only grasps the material quickly, but he goes beyond the core concepts to develop a deeper understanding by connecting the current material with material from other classes. He is truly a model student.”
This past fall, Trey Thurman, associate professor of physics and astronomy, mentored Tyler on an independent research project exploring environmental radioactivity. “Tyler is confident in his abilities,” Thurman says. “But he has maintained a humbleness that allows his fellow students to seek him out for assistance, which he is very willing to provide.”
In his senior year, Tyler’s research will build on skills he developed working with Thurman. “My project for next year will be a more advanced application of gamma ray spectroscopy,” Tyler explains. “With this experiment, I will study how zinc behaves within the body. I am particularly interested in the interaction of zinc and the pancreas and its relation to diabetes.” Tyler will be working closely with both Thurman and McDermott.
Interim Director of Fellowship Advising and Elliott Assistant Professor of Rhetoric Nicholas Nace is the College’s representative to the Goldwater Foundation. “This was a boom year of incredibly strong potential nominees, which made our on-campus decision-making tremendously difficult,” Nace says. “But I was particularly struck by Tyler’s resilience as much as his sheer intelligence and obvious good nature.” The process of applying for a Goldwater Scholarship is not for the faint of heart. Despite months on end of e-mails, one-on-one meetings, interviews, letter requests, written proposals, and seemingly endless edits, Nace was amazed to see that “Tyler remained chipper through it all—smiling the whole time.”