Christina McBride '23 Wins Goldwater Scholarship
The chemistry major and biochemistry concentrator is one of 417 college students across the country selected for the award that supports undergraduates who aim to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering.
Junior Christina McBride has been awarded a 2022–2023 Barry Goldwater Scholarship. The scholarship, which has been given to outstanding students since 1989 to encourage the pursuit of careers in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics, is the preeminent undergraduate science scholarship of its kind.
McBride, a chemistry major and biochemistry concentrator, is one of 417 students selected from over 5,000 applicants nominated by 433 academic institutions across the country for this year’s cohort of scholars. The Goldwater funds tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year.
McBride comes from a family of scientists in Lancaster County, PA, and has been conducting research since she was in high school, when she studied anti-cancer properties of plant extracts with Rebecca Connor at Dickinson College. At Haverford, she conducts independent bioprospecting research, searching for natural sources of drugs and other useful molecules.
“I study how we can improve the ways in which we discover these molecules by identifying, isolating, purifying, and characterizing our proteins of interest,” she said. “One avenue of my research focuses on using bioinformatics to find novel type II polyketide synthases, which are protein ‘teams’ that collaboratively manufacture many antibiotic and anticancer molecules. Another part of my research focuses on the design and implementation of expression systems that may allow us to isolate bacteriocins—molecules produced by bacteria to kill closely related strains through “bacterial warfare”—and study their toxicity and possible potential as antimicrobial agents. By working across two different protein systems with two different mentors, I am able to cultivate my interdisciplinary interests and see how experts across different fields foster collaboration.”
In that work, she is mentored by Associate Professor of Chemistry Lou Charkoudian and Assistant Professor of Biology Eric Miller.
“Both Lou and Eric have offered endless support throughout my research journey at Haverford and have given me the tools to succeed as an independent and innovative researcher,” she said. “I hope to leverage my position as a Goldwater Scholar to advocate for accessibility, inclusivity, and transparency in science, much like Eric and Lou do throughout their work!”
In the Charkoudian Lab, McBride runs the BioArt program, which makes colorful “living” art projects from bacterial strains found in soil. These BioArt experiments make the beauty of science evident and provide an outreach opportunity, connecting Charkoudian’s student researchers with school children from underrepresented backgrounds in the MAST Program and adults with learning and developmental disabilities at the Center for Creative Works.
“For several years, our team has developed programming to make BioArt and share science with people of all ages and abilities,” she said, “and I enjoy being able to contribute to this tradition and demystify STEM.”
In addition to the Goldwater, McBride has also been selected as an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Scholar, a 15-month mentored research experience for exceptional undergraduate students in chemistry or biology. She also received both a 2019 P.E.O. STAR Scholarship and a 2019 National Merit Scholarship. This summer, she will continue her independent research in the Charkoudian and Miller labs, and eventually she would like to run a research lab of her own—after earning a Ph.D. in either biochemistry or chemical biology.
“Working alongside the amazing faculty and students at Haverford has not only strengthened my commitment to chemistry and biochemistry,” said McBride, “ but really opened my eyes to the vast opportunities in these fields.”