WWU junior Caitlin Bannister’s research into the mysteries of the nervous system have made her the Behavioral Neuroscience Program’s first recipient of the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship.
With an award of up to $7,500, the highly competitive scholarship is for students wanting to land a research job in natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. About 300 are given each year out of a typical applicant pool of 5,000 or more students.
Bannister works with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Kameron Harris and Associate Professor of Psychology Jeff Carroll on computational neuroscience research for the neurodegenerative Huntington’s disease.
After graduating from high school, Bannister worked as a caregiver for 10 years. She considered going into nursing, but decided to study neuroscience instead.
“I thought maybe I could go do something where I work on treatments and cures instead of taking care of people, so that maybe fewer people would need caregiving,” Bannister says.
She enrolled at Everett Community College, and later transferred to Western.
“Being a student returning to university so long after high school can sometimes feel a little bit isolating, and like I’m at a disadvantage,” she says. “Figuring out how to return to school was challenging.”
Those doubts went away when the award notification came, she says. “There was a little voice in my head shouting, ‘I did it!’ ”
With one year left at Western, Bannister says she plans to continue her research in graduate school and obtain a doctorate in neuroscience, eventually researching mechanisms to develop treatments for damaged and dysfunctional nervous systems.
Photo by Luke Hollister