Tech student wins prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

COOKEVILLE – Brayden C. Copeland, a sophomore at Tennessee Tech University, has won the national, prestigious and highly competitive Goldwater Scholarship. He is only the third Tech student ever to receive it.

“I am honored to be awarded a Goldwater Scholarship, the first Tech student since 1999. This award will cover the remaining costs of my undergraduate education, and the Goldwater scholar community has numerous exciting opportunities for networking and professional advancement,” Copeland said. “I am grateful to be selected by the Goldwater Foundation and appreciative of the multiple opportunities they will provide.”

Copeland, who is from Rickman, is pursuing degrees in chemistry and biology, with a minor in honors. He is one of 417 college students who were selected nationwide out of the over 5000 who were nominated by 433 academic institutions.

Each university across the country is allowed a handful of nominees for the national pool of contenders. Tech is allowed two nominees. The first step is submitting a pre-application to Mary Kidd, Tech’s Goldwater coordinator, who selects the two candidates.

The national candidates must then complete a lengthy application which includes detailed questions about each research project one is involved in, the skills obtained from the project and any publications or presentations associated with the project. The application also includes questions about a candidate’s future goals, background, awards and extracurricular activities.

“This award only confirms that Tech is able to provide high quality, nationally recognized, research experiences to its undergraduate students,” Andreea Cojocaru, chemistry professor, said.

The Goldwater scholarship will provide Copeland up to $7,500, for up to two years. The first Tech student to receive the scholarship was Jennifer M. Cox in 1997. The second was Jonathan A. Carlson in 1999. 

“Initially, I was hesitant to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship. However, my research advisor encouraged me to investigate it, and the more I read about it, the more interested I became,” Copeland said. “The scholarship places a heavy emphasis on undergraduate science students who are heavily involved in research, so I thought it was a good fit.”

Copeland is conducting research in the Chemistry Department with Cojocaru. She felt he was the right person to nominate for the Goldwater Scholarship because of his dedication, level of discipline and intellectual ability.

He approached Cojocaru in March 2021 to discuss the opportunity of joining her research group.

“Although just a freshman at the time, Brayden appeared to be a goal oriented, intelligent student with great enthusiasm,” Cojocaru said.

Copeland’s first task was to write a research proposal for an Honors project that was to be completed by the end of the Fall 2021 semester. Although not enrolled in summer classes at the time, he commuted 3-4 days a week from Rickman during the Summer 2021 semester to learn how to use the laboratory equipment and instrumentation needed in his Honors project.

“This dedication as well as his level of discipline and intellectual ability made me feel that Brayden is a great asset to my research group and an exceptional candidate for the Goldwater scholarship,” Cojocaru said.

His research focuses on converting solid-state drugs into new dual functional liquid state drugs that would address issues faced by solid-state drugs such as polymorphism, limited efficacy and bioavailability while allowing for the development of new drug delivery strategies.

“I was very attracted to Tech’s chemistry department’s heavy emphasis on research and undergraduate involvement. I knew coming here would provide opportunities in this field that I would not find at other universities,” Copeland said.

Copeland is an industrious student, he has presented his research at national and regional meetings, and he is an author on a manuscript that was recently accepted for publication. His plan is to attend medical school and become a practicing physician at an academic center and conduct clinical research.

“I have had excellent mentors throughout my time at Tech, particularly my research advisor, Dr. O. Andreea Cojocaru, and Lillian Pipkin, a graduate student in the Cojocaru lab,” Copeland said. Pipkin graduated in 2021 and is currently a quality control analyst at UPM Pharmaceuticals in Bristol, Tennessee.

The Goldwater Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent under-graduate award of its type in these fields.

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