Taylor Morris, a 2012 Walker Valley High School graduate, recently received a prestigious scholarship at The University of the South and is wrapping up a theoretical physics research internship at Cornell University.
The Cleveland native has been named a 2014 Goldwater Scholar. This coveted scholarship, established by Congress in 1986, is given to highly qualified student scientists, mathematicians and engineers who intend to pursue research careers in these fields.
As part of his application, Taylor proposed an innovative spectroscopic study of exoplanets to be carried out using the telescopes in the Cordell-Lorentz Observatory at The University of the South in Sewanee under the mentorship of Douglas During, chair of the physics department and director of the observatory.
This project builds on work Morris carried out last year, which has already led to presentations at regional and national meetings, including the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society and a meeting of the Tennessee Academy of Science, where his work was awarded first place in the physics posters category.
“Taylor is very deserving of this honor,” said Robert Bachman, The University of the South’s director of undergraduate research. “He is an ideal Goldwater Scholar, a renaissance man with broad interests in science and a true dedication to scholarly inquiry. I look forward to following his work on exoplanets develop over the next few years and his scientific career for years to come.”
The competition for the Goldwater is intense, with most awards going to rising college seniors, who generally have an advantage due to their greater academic preparation.
Some 283 Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,166 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.
“It’s an honor to have been selected for this award, especially as a sophomore,” Morris said. “It really illustrates the extraordinary opportunities available for all students, even underclassmen, at Sewanee.”
A physics major at The University of the South, Morris has also spent the summer doing theoretical astrophysics research at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program. Over the summer, he participated in a physics research project under the guidance of professor David Chernoff at Cornell.
In addition to his major in physics, he is pursuing minors in mathematics, chemistry and film studies. These diverse interests are apparent in his diverse career as a researcher. As an alumnus of the Sewanee Bridge Program, Morris was invited to join professor Nancy Berner’s laboratory in the summer prior to studying at Sewanee.
Working with Berner, Morris investigated the seasonal acclimation of the Eastern red-spotted newt using a variety of biological and biochemical techniques.
His work with Berner was recognized for excellence at the 2013 Scholarship Sewanee poster session, winning a McCrady prize (third place for biological and behavior sciences).