Virginia Tech student Ashley D. Morgenstern of Derry, N.H., has been awarded the highly competitive Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2009–10 academic year.

Morgenstern – a junior majoring in human nutrition, foods and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and biochemistry in the College of Science as well as minoring in chemistry – is among 278 Goldwater scholars chosen this year from an applicant field of 1,097 undergraduates studying engineering, science, and mathematics.

Goldwater scholars are selected for academic merit, and each is awarded up to $7,500 per year for tuition, fees, books, and room and board. Congress established the scholarship program in 1986 to honor the late Sen. Barry Goldwater and to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering.

Last summer, Morgenstern was part of a research internship with the National Institute on Aging, a component of the National Institutes of Health, where she conducted research using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure different parameters of the varying substances that make up cartilage. Her research contributions will be used to develop a method to test for an early stage of osteoarthritis.

“I’d like to investigate other biophysical techniques such as mass spectrometry. Combining mass spectrometry, molecular biology, and knowledge of biochemical/metabolic pathways will provide the necessary tools to solve real-world problems, such as effectively harvesting biofuels and developing biopharmaceuticals to treat unmet medical needs,” says Morgenstern.

Morgenstern currently works as an undergraduate research assistant for Kevin Myles, assistant professor of entomology, where she assists with basic research on arthropod-borne viruses such as yellow fever.

“Ashley has gained my confidence and distinguished herself as an intelligent, hard-working student,” says Myles. “Ashley is the first undergraduate student I have encountered that not only has the ability to understand a project, but grasp how the project fits into a larger context.”

Morgenstern is a member of the University Honors Program and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Upon graduation in 2010, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry that will provide a broad foundation for her to become a versatile, competitive researcher in applied biotechnology.

Morgenstern, the daughter of Kurt and Carolyn Morgenstern of Derry, N.H., attended Pinkerton Academy.

Since the program's inception in 1986, Virginia Tech has had 38 Goldwater scholars, including this year's winner.

For more information about Virginia Tech's Goldwater scholar, contact Christina McIntyre, associate director of University Honors and campus representative for the Goldwater Scholarship, at (540) 231-4591.