Goldwater Scholar Hopes to Advance RSV Research

Chris Peek '15 has received a Goldwater Scholarship that will fund his continued research this summer on respiratory and syncytial virus (RSV) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1986, the Goldwater Scholarship promotes the study of science, math and engineering by awarding scholarships to undergraduate students interested in pursuing careers in those fields.

A native of Nashville, Tenn., Peek began researching viruses in high school, and continued last summer as a research assistant on an RSV study at the NIH. He plans to pursue a career as a scientist and physician, earning a joint M.D./Ph.D. degree and "doing work that goes from the bench to the bedside."

The Goldwater Scholarship will help him along the way by funding a second summer of RSV research at the NIH under Vanderbilt biologist Prof. Barney Graham. He worked with Davidson Professor of Biology David Wessner on his application for the Goldwater Scholarship, and a proposal for an honors thesis in biology.

RSV is a major cause of lower respiratory tract infection that affects nearly all young children by age 2, but is particularly prevalent in developing countries. Natural infection induces protective immunity, but it wanes over time and people can be infected multiple times. While it usually affects children with little consequence, severe RSV infections have increasingly been found among elderly patients.

The son of alumnus Richard Peek '84, Chris chose to follow his father's footsteps to Davidson not solely because of its strong science programs. "My decision was my own," he said. "I liked Davidson's strong emphasis on writing because in science you have to be able to express yourself well to be effective."

Outside the biology lab, Chris is co-captain of Davidson Ultimate Frisbee and was recently elected as president of the club sports council. He also tutors at the math and science center.