Amy Webster, a senior in genetics and mathematics, is a Goldwater Scholarship recipient who has already conducted impressive research in the laboratory, and she still finds time to help middle school students learn math.
Harrison High School
B.S. in genetics, B.S. in mathematics
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
I have invested a significant amount of time doing genetics research throughout my undergraduate career, and it is a major highlight of my time in college. My first experience was working in Bill Kelly’s lab at Emory University through the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience Program, known as SURE, the summer after my freshman year, which solidified my decision to pursue research during my time in college and ultimately long term. I then got involved in Daniel Promislow’s lab in the genetics department at UGA beginning my sophomore year. In March 2014, I published a first-author review paper that I wrote during my time in his lab. Beginning the summer after my sophomore year, I began a research project in Kelly Dawe’s lab at UGA. I have presented my work at the CURO Symposium and I am completing an Honors thesis based on my work. Based on these research experiences, I was chosen to receive the 2014 Goldwater Scholarship. This summer, I completed a research internship at the Max Planck Institute of Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany before returning for my senior year at UGA. I am also a research editor for the biology department for the Journal of Young Investigators, where I have the opportunity to read and edit manuscripts submitted by other undergraduates from across the world.
My involvement with student organizations has also enriched my experience at UGA. I have been very involved with the Navigators Ministry on campus since my freshman year, and it is through this group that I have made some of my best friends. Some highlights from my involvement include participating in the spring break service trips and helping to lead a freshman Bible study. I am also a head coach for MATHCOUNTS Outreach, where I organize a group of coaches to help middle school students prepare for the MATHCOUNTS competition. I have been helping out at Malcom Bridge Middle School since my freshman year, and it has been awesome to see how much math the kids have been able to learn over that time.
Other awards include being on the dean’s list, being named a Presidential Scholar, and receiving the Hollingsworth Award for mathematics majors and the Zell Miller Scholarship.
Family Ties to UGA:
Both of my parents went to UGA, and so did two aunts, one uncle and two cousins. My grandparents also tailgate at almost every home football game, and have for the past few decades, so my family has been connected to UGA for quite some time.
I chose to attend UGA because…
… the Honors program seemed to have a lot of great perks, such as early registration and a smaller community within a large university. I also was interested in the genetics major, which not a lot of colleges offer, along with the opportunities for research with genetics faculty. Since many of my family members also went to UGA, I knew of many people who went here and really enjoyed their time while getting a great education.
My favorite things to do on campus are…
I love tailgating and going to the football games on Saturdays in the fall. It is a fun way to feel united with the rest of the UGA students, and it’s also pretty fantastic when we win. I also enjoy running when the weather is nice, or eating lunch with friends outside near the Creamery.
When I have free time, I like…
I love getting together with friends for a potluck, movie or game night. When I have time to myself, I enjoy running, reading and listening to music. I also play piano and guitar, and recently started learning ukulele. While I don’t have as much time to make music as I’d like, my roommate and I break out into harmonies fairly often, which takes very little time and can serve as a great study break.
The craziest thing I've done is…
I think the craziest thing I’ve done is live in Dresden, Germany, for the summer to complete a research internship. It was my first time out of the U.S. and I could not speak any German, but it turned out to be such a great experience. The institute was a truly international community, and I learned a lot of science during my time there. I also had the opportunity to travel on weekends and explore beautiful cities with new friends. Through the experience of living and working in a different country, I feel as though I grew as both a scientist and a person.
My favorite place to study is…
I tend to study in either the science library or my apartment, depending on whether I have an exam coming up. When I need to be the most efficient, I head to the science library.
My favorite professor is…
In the genetics department, my research mentors Daniel Promislow and Kelly Dawe have been instrumental in enabling me to work toward a career in research in genetics. I worked in Dr. Promislow’s lab during my sophomore year, and he encouraged me to write a first-author review paper as my first project in lab. This was highly unusual given my minimal previous research experience at the time, but served as a great opportunity to explore my interest in the intersection of math and genetics and gain experience reading scientific literature. His guidance throughout the process of writing, revising, submitting and ultimately publishing the paper was crucial for its success. Beginning the summer after my sophomore year, I started working in Dr. Dawe’s lab. When we first discussed the project I would be working on, it was one I found very fascinating, and it has proved to be so ever since. I have enjoyed working with everyone in lab and hearing about their work at lab meetings, and I am grateful to be part of such a vibrant lab community. I wrote about my work as part of the Goldwater Scholarship, and I appreciate Dr. Dawe’s support as I worked on my application, and as I currently work on my Honors thesis.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
I would like to share the afternoon with my maternal grandmother, who passed away when I was 12. She and I always got along well and I have fond memories of us playing the piano together when I was young. It would be great to hear stories about her life now that I’m old enough to truly appreciate them.
If I knew I could not fail, I would…
I would definitely continue on the research path, focusing on research with implications for improving human health. I would also work to increase the representation of women and minorities in science, and help to make scientific knowledge more accessible to the general public. And if I don’t fail at any of this, I’m sure I will have plenty of time to also write books, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to…
It would be great if any scientist who has a good idea could also have the resources to carry it out. If money were not a consideration, I’d like to make that happen.
After graduation, I plan to…
I will pursue a Ph.D. in genetics and research processes that regulate gene expression. Ultimately, I would like to work as a professor at a university and continue doing research.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
Being in the student section during the 2013 LSU game when we won was exhilarating and an experience I remember vividly. I had never heard the crowd so loud, and the intense feeling of unity with everyone was the best. A more general memory would be my freshman year living in Myers. I will never understand how we were able to get our work done with 10 people hanging out in one dorm room (I suppose the classes were easier our first year), but some of the friends I made that year became, and I am confident will remain, my best friends.