Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, April 22, 2013

Biology Student Receives 2013 Carnegie Mellon Women’s Association Scholarship

Catherine Byrd doesn’t know how to be idle. She has an innate drive to be doing something, whether it’s conducting research, volunteering as a tutor and mentor, or traveling to Guatemala to help provide medical care to underserved communities. Her boundless energy and enthusiasm for making a difference earned Byrd a Carnegie Mellon Women’s Association Scholarship, which recognizes outstanding senior undergraduate women.

Byrd will graduate this year with college and university honors and a degree in Biological Sciences with a minor in History, and plans to begin medical school in the fall.

“Catherine has taken full advantage of all that a Carnegie Mellon education can offer—doing research, taking a wide variety of courses, and being actively involved in the campus, local and global community. She has blazed a wonderful trail!” said Mellon College of Science Associate Dean Eric Grotzinger.

Byrd got her first taste of conducting research the summer after her first year when she participated in CMU’s Summer Research Institute. Byrd enjoyed it so much that she sought out a research position with Biological Sciences Professor Chien Ho. Since her sophomore year, she has worked with his group on understanding how the structure of woolly mammoth hemoglobin enables the molecule to bind oxygen even in cold temperatures. She is the second author of a manuscript that is being prepared about this research.

“Catherine is a serious worker and is interested in her work,” Ho said. “I am delighted to have had her working in my laboratory for the last two years.”

Outside of the lab and the classroom, Byrd has dedicated a great deal of time to helping the local community. She counsels teens as part of Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS, sits on the Western Pennsylvania Girl Scouts’ Gold Award Committee, and serves as a science and English tutor for non-traditional college students. During spring break this year, Byrd traveled to Guatemala to work in medical clinics and help build homes in two lakeside villages. She also participates in groups on CMU’s campus, including COMPASS, BioSAC and Women in Science.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done without the people at CMU who really cared and were able to help me, “Byrd said. “There are really great people here.”