Recognizing academic achievementin the rare disease community

2017 Recipient

2017 Recipient


Brian-Full-Image

Brian

20 years old
Ruckersville, VA

High school:
Homeschooled, Ruckersville, VA while also enrolled at Piedmont Virginia Community College
Charlottesville, VA
Graduated high school May 2015.

College:
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA
Entered, fall 2016
Enrolled at James Madison University from fall 2015 to spring 2016.

Rare disorder:
I have eosinophilic esophagitis or EoE. I started having issues in late elementary/early middle school, and I was diagnosed at the end of middle school. My doctor identified my issues as EoE, and he also mentioned how rare it is. My issues are with the texture of food and having a hard time swallowing certain foods. In high school, I was having trouble breathing when swallowing food. It was getting worse and worse until I could only manage to have liquids, which is when I realized how serious it had become.  After that, I visited a lot of doctors to try to manage the EoE better. I’m allergic to milk and eliminating that helped a lot as well.

Favorite subjects:
I really enjoy studying physics and math. I’m double majoring in both and want to learn about how physics works at the smallest level.  This type of study is really mathematically based and combines both topics for which I have a passion.  I’m curious about the world in general, and I try to make sure that I pursue not only knowledge, but want to understand how well I know the knowledge I have, and what I still need to learn. In addition, I like the math side of economics and specifically game theory. I enjoyed examining how game theory influences natural selection and how different organisms respond to changes in the environment.

Favorite activities:
I’m in the Society of Physics Students - we do a lot of lectures to undergraduate students as well as physics shows to middle schoolers. I also am really into spike ball, which is similar to volleyball.  In my spare time, I enjoy doing physics research. I worked with a professor while I was at James Madison University to do research in soft matter.  I was studying the behavior of foam, which is similar to sand in how it piles up, and, when it piles up too much, it landslides. I was researching how it piles up and then at what point it collapses. This research has a lot of applications to biology and health.

Academic and professional plans:
This summer I’m going to be doing a research experience for undergraduate students working at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) in Louisiana. LIGO detects gravitational waves and I’ll be working with a team to help filter out noise in some of the readings.   After college, I’d like to attend graduate school to study physics or a subfield of physics. Ultimately, I’d like to add to the knowledge in my field of study. Right now I want to see what the rest of college or graduate school brings. 

Proudest moment to date:
One of the times I’ve been happiest about what I’ve accomplished was when I presented my research on soft matter at the American Physical Society (APS) conference. Both professors and other undergraduates attended my poster presentation and spoke to me about my research. It was really cool to be involved in the physics community.

How I found out I was the ACES 2017 recipient:
I received an email and I was shocked! I immediately told my family and they were all really excited.  It was really fun calling my parents and telling them. I feel like scholarships are really challenging to win and I was hoping for the best, but didn’t think I would win.

Advice for students applying for ACES next year:
What is really important is to have a cohesive narrative of your life, who you are and why you do the things you do. All the things you’ve done need to come together and show you are an interesting person and can help others. 

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