For 30 years, the Westbrook Scholarship Program has helped first-year chemistry and physics students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga complete their degrees.
The scholarship provides $14,000 over four years to eligible incoming freshmen in the UTC Department of Chemistry and Physics.
The scholarship was established in 1993 by UTC alumnus Howard L. Westbrook (‘38), a Chattanooga native who attended Central High School and went on to work as a chemist for the Shell Oil company for 30 years.
Westbrook passed away in 2016, but his lasting legacy at UTC is embodied in these 2023 Westbrook Scholarship recipients.
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Chemistry is a family affair for Kylie Flores, who said her mother has been one of her greatest academic influences.
“She was always thrilled to share her knowledge about the sciences, whether it be showering me with medical terms or reminiscing about the days she struggled with organic chemistry as she helps me study for an AP Chemistry exam,” Flores said.
The subject, itself, has taught Flores lessons beyond the classroom.
“I have discovered that the skills you develop, the knowledge you gain and the concepts you grasp when dedicating yourself to studying chemistry are indispensable and useful for all areas of life,” she said. “Chemistry is not just about memorizing key terms.”
Flores said she wants to become a doctor, a nurse or “some kind of scientist who can do something to improve the state of the world, whether it be caring for people through health care or improving other areas of life. My ideal career is one where I am able to utilize chemistry in my day-to-day life to help people.”
Like her mom, who attended medical school after earning an art degree, Flores has an aptitude for both arts and sciences.
“My goal is to enrich my studies by exploring at least some areas of the arts, like choir, dance, theater or photography…Life is not complete without the opportunity to express oneself,” she said.
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When you find the entire universe fascinating, as Noah Wyatt does, majoring in physics is an obvious choice.
“Physics has always fascinated me because it answers big questions, such as where we are from and where we are going. I see it as the study of the big things, not big in scale per se, but big in meaning,” Wyatt said. “Physics takes us to places that would have never been imaginable just a few centuries ago.”
Wyatt said one of his best teachers in high school didn’t just teach physics, “He also forced students to switch their brains to think like physicists.
“We weren’t just given formulas; we were shown how they were derived. We spent many class periods solving for a certain variable in a formula to show how they all were related,” he said.
Wyatt aspires to a career as a university professor and researcher.
“Researching our universe has always excited me and I love the idea of making my hobby into a profession. Spending my days learning about what I’ve been curious about for so long seems to be the perfect career for me.”
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Savana Lawrence admits that she hasn’t always excelled in science.
“It has been one of my few academic struggles, even with my great love of the subject,” she said.
Lawrence took her chemistry first as a high school sophomore but never got into the lab because of pandemic restrictions. She took organic chemistry the next year with a lab component, and it changed the course of her academic career.
“That class was what single-handedly made me love science all over again and it made me look past my previously negative experiences with the subject…I quickly faced my fears of failing and chose to instead learn as much as I can.”
Lawrence said she now recognizes “that I need to be constantly learning. With chemistry, there will always be new discoveries to make and subjects to learn. I will never grow tired of it.”
A self-proclaimed lover of “make-up and all beautiful things,” Lawrence wants to work in the cosmetics industry to develop “products that enhance a person and who they are without animal testing.”
Apart from her academic goals, Lawrence said she chose UTC because she has always loved Chattanooga.
“Those lucky enough to live in Chattanooga get to experience its bustling city life, surrounded by art and culture, and I wanted to be a part of that community.”
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Billy Hansen got into physics by happenstance.
He never considered taking AP physics until a friend signed up and he followed suit.
“That course was among the best and most enjoyable I have ever taken and, just because of it, I now want to major in astrophysics,” said Hansen, who also praised his high school physics teacher for helping stoke his passion for the subject.
“I’ve always valued science subjects and have studied a lot of them, but none have ever come close to physics in terms of my enjoyment,” he said. “No matter the topic—whether it’s mechanics, fluid mechanics, thermal physics, modern physics, waves, optics, electricity or magnetism—I appreciate learning about the underlying principles of life and how everything functions.”
A Chattanooga native, Hansen said choosing UTC was easy because of the excellent physics program, beautiful campus and close-to-home location for him.
He wants to pursue a doctorate in astrophysics and work for NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.
“I want to work at this facility to learn more about the astral bodies that are out there and to gain a better grasp of what is going on in the universe as it continues to expand,” he said.
Ultimately, Hansen said, “I’m looking for a place that will enable me to use my love of physics to improve the world.”
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Bound for medical school, Abigail Hurst chose to major in chemistry at UTC, in part, because of the University’s pre-health science tracks.
“I want a university that will help me exceed my academic expectations and challenge me to do my best, and UTC is the university that will do that for me,” she said.
Science is more than a means of getting into medical school for Hurst, who also describes it as the ultimate tool for exploring life.
“I love understanding the science behind our everyday processes and learning different things I have never heard of. I learn better when learning hands-on, and I think this is one of the main reasons I love science,” she said. It feels like there is always something new to learn when learning about science in general, and that is the main reason science interests me the most.”
Hurst wants to be an anesthesiologist and potentially work in hospital leadership.
“Chemistry means the world to me because it is what makes up my world. I’m prepared for the hard work that comes with it, and I look forward to having peers that care as deeply as I do about advances made within science.”
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Some students are naturals when it comes to chemistry, and Aidan Harrison is one of them.
The Memphis native is fascinated with the science itself and the experimental laboratories where chemistry students and professionals ply their trade.
“I loved almost every single lab I’ve ever done,” she said.
While taking two advanced chemistry courses in high school—organic chemistry and AP chemistry—Harrison found herself not only drawn to observing matter’s captivating reactions but even to the tools that helped create them.
“My favorite would either have to be watching a Bunsen burner fire turn different colors or making elephant toothpaste,” Harrison said of the common chemistry experiment that results in a foamy eruption of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and a potassium iodide catalyst.
“Elephant toothpaste was at the end of my junior year in organic chemistry and made the end of the class worth it. It was almost as if it wrapped up all the memories we had made in one lab.”
With a strong interest in biology, Harrison chose to major in biochemistry at UTC to combine her academic strong suits into one field, she said.
Harrison aspires to work as a research biochemist, she said, perhaps at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in her hometown.