Virginia Tech Department of Physics doctoral student Rebekah Pestes has been awarded the 2020 Gertrude Scharff-Goldhaber Prize, consisting of $2,500 and a certificate.

Partially funded by Brookhaven Science Associates, the company that manages Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island in New York, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the award was established in 1992 by Brookhaven Women in Science, a nonprofit organization that supports and encourages the advancement of women in science.

Pestes majored in biophysics and math as an undergraduate student at Walla Walla University in College Place, Washington. There, she worked with Roy Campbell, a professor of physics. on research in protein folding. When joining Virginia Tech as a doctoral student, Pestes’ interest in neutrino physics brought her in contact with Patrick Huber, also a professor of Physics. This summer, she is working with Peter Denton, an assistant physicist, in the Science Graduate Student Research Program at Brookhaven.

“Math came very naturally to me, and I appreciated how physics used math to describe how everything works,” said Pestes of her research work. “I enjoyed the complexity in thinking about how particles interact with each other to make up everything we see around us, so for grad school, I decided to dive into refining our understanding of particles and their interactions through doing research as a particle theorist. Through talking with Dr. Patrick Huber, I became convinced that neutrinos provided a promising avenue of research to learn more about particles and their interactions.”

The award recognizes substantial promise and accomplishment by female graduate students in physics who are enrolled in the graduate program at Stony Brook University and/or performing their thesis research at Brookhaven. The award is named in honor of the late nuclear physicist Gertrude Scharff-Goldhaber, who in 1950 became the first female Ph.D. physicist appointed to the Brookhaven Lab.

The award ceremony was held online July 9.

For her career goals, Pestes said she hopes to work as professor at a university or a faculty member at a national lab, studying neutrino physics theory.