Amy Scarbrough, Pitt Honors College Student, Wins Udall Scholarship

Issue Date: 
April 12, 2010
Amy ScarbroughAmy Scarbrough

University of Pittsburgh Honors College junior Amy Scarbrough, majoring in ecology and evolution as well as bioinformatics in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, has received a Morris K. Udall Scholarship, established by Congress in 1992 to honor former Arizona Congressman Morris K. Udall (1922-98). Scarbrough is being recognized for her excellent academic record and research on the environment.

This year, the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation awarded 80 Udall Scholarships as well as 50 honorable mentions to students who are committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care.

“Created, in part, to foster a greater recognition and understanding of the role of the environment and natural resources in the development of the nation, the Morris K. Udall Scholarship encourages future leaders across a wide spectrum of environmental fields, including policy, science, and engineering,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. “Being named a Udall Scholar is a singular honor. We congratulate Amy Scarbrough and applaud her contributions to addressing— and helping to prevent future—environmental problems.”

“We are proud that Pitt students continue to be recognized through prestigious awards,” said James V. Maher, Pitt provost and senior vice chancellor. “Amy is an exceptional student whose dedication to and passion for the environment make her an exemplary choice as a Udall Scholar.”

A Mountain Top, Pa., native, Scarbrough studies what she says are “the seemingly disparate fields of ecology and supercomputing in order to one day join pioneering scientific efforts in the field of computational ecology.” Her goal is to fight environmental degradation by simulating entire ecosystems.

Scarbrough’s preparation for her future career extends to research outside the ecological arena. Working under Joseph Reznik, a research assistant in the Section of Mollusks at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Scarbrough spent a year sequencing DNA from unclassified or poorly classified cave arthropods in order to determine phylogeny. She is currently conducting research as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellow under the guidance of Michael Grabe, a professor in Pitt’s Department of Biological Sciences. Her work includes generating and analyzing computer simulations of sugar transport in the membrane protein vSGLT—a task that demands knowledge of molecular dynamics simulations and computer programming.

As part of the local chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), Scarbrough is working on the Vandergrift Improvement Project (VIP), which aims to rejuvenate Vandergrift, Pa., a former steel town. Scarbrough is a key researcher on the project’s design team—led by faculty from the Pitt Swanson School of Engineering’s Mascaro Sustainability Initiative—that is responsible for the renovation of a gutted and crumbling J.C. Penney department store. Her research comprises the technical and aesthetic elements of green design, from hardwood flooring to green roofing. Her team will compile the work into an online database that can be used by any developer or homeowner interested in sustainable design. Scarbrough also will be responsible for leading new efforts as the president of ESW for the 2010-11 academic year.

In addition to the Howard Hughes research fellowship, Scarbrough’s honors include being awarded a four-year full-tuition scholarship and, in 2009, a Bioengineering/Bioinformatics Summer Institute Research Fellowship. She also was a 2007 National Merit Scholarship finalist and has been a dean’s list honoree every term.

At Pitt, Scarbrough is a member and project leader of Free the Planet, an environmental advocacy organization, and a Quo Vadis Nationality Rooms tour guide. She was a member of Pitt’s Women’s Choral Ensemble from 2007 to 2008 and the Fencing Club from 2008 to 2009.

Scarbrough, who eventually plans to pursue a doctorate in computational ecology or environmental engineering, hopes to join the Peace Corps when she graduates from Pitt in 2011.