Roanoker Receives Presidential Award

John Bradshaw, Catherine Bradshaw, and Matilda Bradshaw shortly after the award presentation ceremony.

by David Perry

For the second straight year, a Roanoke native has received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on young professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Catherine Bradshaw, an associate professor in John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, was selected along with 84 other young researchers. Roanoker Dare Goodrum, an assistant professor in the Department of Immunobiology at the University of Arizona, received the award in 2009.

Bradshaw, 35, is a graduate of North Cross School. Her research at Johns Hopkins focuses on bullying as well as ways to make schools safer for students, and eliminating student mental health problems and substance abuse later in life.

In December, she joined the other award recipients in a special ceremony in Washington, DC, where she was recognized for her achievements and had a chance to meet President Obama.

“He was incredibly generous and personable,” said Bradshaw of the president. “When we met with him, he talked about how important science and research is. He spoke about trying to increase funding for research,” a comment which was well received by the group.

Bradshaw’s path toward a budding career as a mental health researcher began at home. “Education was very, very important to our family,” she said. “My grandfather set aside some money for my sisters and me to pay for our post-secondary education, and all of us have gone on to get at least a master’s degree.”

Bradshaw, who is married, attended kindergarten at Crystal Spring Elementary School but transferred to North Cross for the remainder of her education. “I was very pleased to able to go to North Cross for 12 years,” she said. “The small learning environment really helped me a lot just because of my learning style being very interactive.”

One teacher in particular, Dr. James Palmieri (now an associate professor at Virginia Tech) was especially motivational for Bradshaw. Palmieri had done research on the AIDS virus—a different route than Bradshaw would one day take—but her interaction with Palmieri “piqued my interest in getting a Ph.D. and pursuing higher education.”

After graduating from North Cross in 1993, she attended Mary Washington College before graduating from the University of Richmond in 1997. A master’s degree from the University of Georgia followed in 1999, and she earned her doctorate from Cornell University in 2004. She then joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins.

The Baltimore resident, who works with school districts all across Maryland and is the recipient of several grants from the US Dept. of Education, learned in October of 2009 that she was being considered to be the department’s nominee for the Presidential Early Career Award. She submitted her c.v. and letters of recommendation, including one from Maryland Chief Superintendent Nancy Grasnick, the longest-serving chief in the country.

A month later, the Dept. of Education confirmed that she was their nominee and would be sent on to the White House Office of Science and Technology for the final cut. Right around Labor Day of last year, Bradshaw received notice that she would be joining some seven dozen other talented researchers as winners in the 2010 competition.

Bradshaw said that while there is no cash prize or research grant presented for the award, it does have its benefits, as she points out, “It will open some doors for me as far as collaboration on projects and people approaching me to get my input on things.” She’s already been asked to write two research briefs for an upcoming White House summit on bullying.

Like any good teacher, she has words of advice for current high school students who may be wondering about their own directions in life. Her advice: take advantage of what’s made available to you.

“I valued the opportunity for leadership at North Cross,” she said, where she was captain of the lacrosse team and editor of the school yearbook.

Bradshaw also encourages girls to seek out role models, which was something of a challenge for her. “There weren’t as many professional women then, so I didn’t have as many role models as the kids nowadays,” she said.

As her career progresses, Bradshaw said she hopes her work makes a difference in the lives of students, and results in more than just academic papers and journal articles.

Said Bradshaw, “I hope that the research I do isn’t just research for research’s sake.”

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