Berry College junior Sarah Cooper is one of 211 students in the nation to receive the 2018 Goldwater Scholarship – one of the most prestigious scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics fields.

“Being awarded the Goldwater Scholarship … has shown me that I am capable of achieving my career path that used to be just a dream,” Cooper said. “Receiving this national award is also a testament to the strength of Berry’s student work program and how well professors invest themselves in student research.”

The Goldwater Scholarship was established by Congress in honor of Sen. Barry Goldwater’s service as a soldier and statesman. The foundation strives to support sophomores and juniors who desire to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics sectors to ensure the U.S. has highly qualified individuals in these fields.

Cooper, a biochemistry major from Lafayette, Ind., found her passion for biochemical research when she worked in a Purdue University cancer research lab during high school. She has continued to work at Berry as a lab assistant under the guidance of Associate Professor of Biochemistry Dominic Qualley.

“Dr. Qualley is incredibly patient and trusting. He encourages me to utilize the scientific method firsthand by designing and running experiments independently, yet he is always available to guide me when I need help,” she said.

The scholarship awards her a $7,500 stipend for her senior year at Berry and another $7,500 toward her first year of graduate school. She plans on attending graduate school in a biochemistry-related field. She then hopes to work as a principal investigator leading a lab that studies how different diseases affect the body on a molecular level.

Qualley said the Goldwater is “a tremendous honor, and it speaks volumes about the level of research that is done at Berry.”

“Sarah has been (and still is) a pleasure to work with. It’s pretty rare that a research student has both elite talent and a strong passion for this type of work, and Sarah definitely fits that bill,” he said. “She will be starting her Honors thesis project, which will investigate the role of proteins within the feline leukemia virus. This is an important pathogen that infects domestic cats and large cats.”