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Conor Bready ’24 and Colin Burdette ’23 named Beckman Scholars

|Conor Bready(Blue) and Tom Whittemore (Purple and Blue Stripes)|Colin Burdette ’23|

Conor Bready ’24 stopped mid-sentence when he first got the notification. Bready, of Highland, New York, was out at lunch with a couple of friends when he learned he had received one of two Furman University Beckman Scholar Program honors from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. The other Beckman Scholar is chemistry major Colin Burdette ’23 of Livingston, New Jersey.

white student in blue shirt, Conor Bready '24

Conor Bready ’24

“When I glanced at my watch, I froze and just immediately took out my phone to read the rest of the email,” Bready recalls. “My friends were very confused, but I was so excited I completely forgot I was in the middle of a conversation with them.”

The Beckman Scholars Program is a 15-month mentored research experience for exceptional undergraduate students in chemistry, biological sciences or interdisciplinary combinations, such as neurobiology, chemistry and mathematics, and biology and computer science, for instance. Each May, Beckman Scholars institutions with active awards name their honorees.

Since 1999, and over the course of eight consecutive three-year funding cycles, Furman has earned the Beckman Scholars badge. The designation includes funding for students and faculty mentors for laboratory supplies and travel expenses to scientific conferences and meetings. Previous awards have supported research into the chemical origins of life, discoveries related to solar energy and bacteria-resistant films to line water pipes, for example.

Bready, an applied mathematics and chemistry major who was also named a Goldwater Scholar this year, works in chemistry professor George Shields’ lab, where the two aim to better understand how aerosols form into clouds – research that has implications for reducing global warming.

white man in glasses, Colin Burdette '23

Colin Burdette ’23

Burdette has worked in assistant professor of chemistry Meghan Breen’s lab since the summer following freshman year. They are studying a pathogenic fungus, Candida glabrata, and why the infection it causes, candidiasis, becomes drug resistant. In healthy patients, the hospital-acquired yeast isn’t life-threatening, explained Burdette, but in immunosuppressed populations, the infection spawned by Candida glabrata has a high mortality rate.

“Using new technologies like genetic code expansion to study the proteins and biochemistry of this fungus, we hope to one day in the future identify drug targets for treatments,” Burdette said.

Now among 30 Furman Beckman Scholars – and counting – Bready and Burdette feel pretty lucky.

“Overall, I’m just extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity,” Bready said. “Dr. Shields has helped me thrive at Furman since the very beginning. Starting out as my intro chem professor, he allowed me to see just how cool chemistry can be. He has taught me so much more about the vast nanoscopic world hidden right in front of us. I can’t begin to express my thanks for all he’s done for me. He is truly an amazing mentor.”

Burdette is thankful for his lab team. “They’re always there and ready to help me with a bunch of my experiments,” he said. “Dr. Breen specifically has just been such an integral part of my Furman experience. She’s the best.”

Last updated July 8, 2022
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Clinton Colmenares
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