Waybright is State’s 10th Goldwater Scholar

BROOKINGS – South Dakota State University student Jace Waybright was named one of 211 students to receive a scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. 

Waybright, who is majoring in physics and mathematics, is SDSU’s 10th Goldwater Scholar.

Waybright, who is also enrolled in the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College, will spend this summer in Tsukuba, Japan, doing research at the National Institute of Materials Science. 

He is one of six undergraduates to participate in an international nanotechnology Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) program through Cornell University. The National Science Foundation-funded program gives young scientists global research experience.

He credited SDSU assistant physics professor Parashu Kharel with starting him on the path that led to these opportunities. 

“Dr. Kharel took a chance on me even before I came to South Dakota State – that made a big difference,” said Waybright, who had already earned 30 college credits when he graduated from Lincoln East High School in Lincoln, Nebraska, in May 2016.

Before starting his undergraduate work at South Dakota State, Waybright worked with Kharel as a REU faculty-student pair at the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience in summer 2016 directed by professor David Sellmyer, a Univerity of Nebraka, Lincoln professor and director of the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience. That experience then led to Waybright receiving a subsequent summer REU paired with UNL assistant professor Xiaoshan Xu.

Waybright, who plans to earn a doctorate in physics and teach and conduct research in a university setting, knows there are benefits beyond the financial aspect of being a Goldwater Scholar.

“I plan to shoot very high for graduate school and having the Goldwater Scholarship is going to make me one of the more competitive applicants,” he said. 

Waybright has been working in condensed matter physics, which he described as a more physical approach to materials science. He has been reviewing certain magnetic behaviors that could have applications in future technology.

One example has been trying to find materials that could increase the accuracy and efficiency of the read head in a computer hard-disk drive. Another is the possibility of magnetic refrigeration.

Instead of using the current vapor-compression system in a refrigerator, the same process can be done using magnets.

“It would be much cleaner, and if we can find suitable materials, be more energy efficient, too,” Waybright said. “We’re not quite there yet. I don’t know when we’ll have magnetic refrigerators in households. It’s still in preliminary stages. Searches are being done for which materials will work best while maintaining cost efficiency.”

While Waybright admits he has been “decent” at science and mathematics from a young age, the process of conducting research drives him.

“Once I started doing research, I fell in love with the process,” he said. “It’s not just textbook answers – you’re doing things that nobody knows, doing things for the very first time. It’s very exciting and gives more of a purpose to your work.”

The Goldwater scholarship provides up to $7,500 for tuition and fees annually. The most recent Jackrabbit to receive the scholarship was Andrew Foley, who received the honor in 2016.

Other winners are:

1993 – Deron Arnold

1994 – Eric Held

1997 – Amy Fowler

2004 – Jordan Williams

2005 – Ihab Halaweish

2007 – Daphne Moutsoglou

2011 – Sarah McMahon

2011 – Greg Tanner

SDSU photo: Jace Waybright has been chosen as a Goldwater Scholar. He is the 10th South Dakota State student to receive the honor.

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