Physics Senior Isabel McCoy Is Brown Award Winner

SOCORRO, N.M. May 13, 2014 – Graduating senior Isabel McCoy was named the winner of the 2014 Brown Award, the top academic award at New Mexico Tech, at commencement on Saturday, May 10.


Isabel McCoy accepts the 2014 Brown Award winner, with university president Dr. Daniel H. Lopez and Dr. Mary Dezember, interim V.P. of Academic Affairs.


McCoy earned her bachelor’s in Physics with an Atmospheric Option and a minor in Mathematics. The Brown Award is named in honor of C. T. Brown, who was a member of the Tech Board of Regents for 26 years. The award is presented to the member of the graduating class who, in the opinion of the faculty, ranks highest in scholarship, conduct, and leadership.  [For a list of all the Brown Award winners in the history of New Mexico Tech, click here: http://www.nmt.edu/gold-pan/brown-award-winners.]

McCoy’s nomination for the Brown Award was supported by several professors from her department and she was the runaway winner of this award.

“I was thrilled to receive the Brown Award,” she said. “I am very honored.”

            As early as her first semester, McCoy approached professors looking for outreach opportunities. She was instrumental in rejuvenating the Physics Club, along with a couple other students. She organized trips to schools, not just in Socorro but also in Belen.

She also served as a learning coach for the freshmen Living Learning Community. She was extremely helpful and always concerned about being a fair and consistent grader.

She has presented research at three conferences, including the national American Meteorological Society student conference, the American Physical Society national conference and the American Physical Society regional conference.

Another professor said that Isabel’s homework solutions have been the best he’s ever seen – meticulous down to the smallest detail. In terms of scholarship, Isabel can only be described with superlatives.

A year ago, she won the Abraham and Esther Brook prize, which goes to the top junior in the Physics Department. This year, she won the Petschek Award for the top senior in theoretical physics.

McCoy applied to six graduate schools – and was accepted by all six. She selected the University of Washington, which is a top school in her chosen field. She has already received graduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the American Meteorological Society. She previously was selected for one Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer project and another summer internship, both at the University of Washington, where her instructors called her the best in the program. Her REU and internship were at the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, or JISAO. McCoy summarized her REU research with a poster titled, “Examining Stratocumulus Properties over the Southeast Pacific.”  [Click here: http://jisao.washington.edu/education/researchOps/mccoy for McCoy’s first-person report and a video about her internship.]

McCoy is the daughter of Dr. John and Amy McCoy. Dr. McCoy is a professor in the Materials Engineering Department at Tech. Isabel – and her brother Daniel – were raised in Socorro, where they were homeschooled.

Daniel also earned a bachelor’s in physics at New Mexico Tech, and is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington.

“Daniel is actually one of the main reasons I became interested in atmospheric physics and he continues to be an inspiration to me,” Isabel said.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech