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John Byrd receives Department of Physics Dean's Medal

Portrait of ASU student John Byrd.

John Byrd, Dean's Medal recipient.

May 11, 2022

Arizona State University's Department of Physics has selected John Byrd, an undergraduate studying physics with a minor in mathematics, as this year's Dean's Medalist. After originally dropping out of high school with a 1.3 GPA, Byrd later decided to take community college classes and transfer to ASU.

Byrd initially started at ASU in biomedical engineering but decided to transition into physics.

“I woke up one day and I was like, ‘Ugh, I don't want to go to any of my classes today,'" he said. "I stopped. I had like, this paradigm shift moment where I was like, ‘OK, but what are my classes today?’ And they were all of my biomedical engineering classes. I guess I was just really frustrated in engineering, with (being) so focused on just like, turning something into a product, like making the thing and not really stopping to consider the intricacies of how it works, and that drew me to physics."

Byrd said receiving the Dean’s Medal hasn’t fully sunk in yet, but is honored to be the recipient.

“It's sort of just kind of like a confirmation that I'm in the right place, that I'm doing the right things and that I can be successful. That's always kind of been a mental battle for me. I mean, coming from, you know, literally dropping out of high school with like a 1.3 GPA or something like that, to getting a Dean's Metal is a pretty big shift,” Byrd said.

Byrd also feels this award helps to battle his imposter syndrome.

“Sometimes I look around at my peers and am like, ‘Oh my God, you guys are just brilliant, like I need to get on that wavelength,'” Byrd said. “It helps battle the imposter syndrome a little bit, because it means that the people around me that I respect and admire so much actually think I belong here, which is very reassuring.”

Byrd’s biggest piece of advice to students is to reach out to professors whose research sounds interesting and figure out what you enjoy.

“If you're not sure what type of research you want to do, it doesn't matter," he said. "If you're not sure exactly what type of research the professor does, reach out and express that you're interested in it. Because the best thing to figure out what you want to do, both in school and in life, is to just to do things, and then figure out what you don't enjoy doing. It's so much easier to narrow down what you don't enjoy than it is to try and magically pull your perfect career trajectory out of a hat. You have to just do stuff, because the more stuff you do, the better knowledge you have of where you want to go.”

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