News from campus and beyond

Conor Bready ’24 receives national graduate research fellowship

Conor Bready ’24. Photo: Jeremy Fleming.

Last updated April 26, 2024

By Tina Underwood

This year, Conor Bready ’24 found himself in an enviable position. The 2022 Beckman Scholar, Goldwater Scholar and Furman University student from Wallkill, New York, was offered two graduate research fellowships, one from the U.S. Department of Energy and another from the National Science Foundation. Since the federal grants can’t be held concurrently, and because Bready already had his sights set on the DOE grant for more than a year, that’s the one he chose.

The DOE Computational Science Graduate Fellowship includes a stipend of $45,000 for four years and an additional $1,000 per year for professional development. The fellowship requires a 12-week practicum at one of 20 DOE laboratories.

“I was incredibly surprised to get the call from the DOE,” said Bready, adding that only 40 students received the fellowship this year. “It made me feel like all the work I did during my undergraduate years truly paid off.”

Bready, an applied mathematics and chemistry major, will continue his studies at the University of California, Berkeley after graduating Furman. He’ll focus on theoretical chemistry, which unites principles and concepts that underpin all branches of the discipline.

“I’m really excited to be able to learn more about chemistry, physics and math,” Bready said. “Science is simply the language of the universe, and I am one mere individual trying to unravel its complexities. To do that, I’ll be applying well-known mathematics in unique ways to solve the chemical problems I’m working on. My research will be focused on a concept known as excited states,” he added.

Excited states is quantum mechanics lingo for describing a system such as an atom, molecule or nucleus that has a higher energy level than at its minimal base starting point. Ultimately, Bready wants to better understand and improve solar energy, another reason the DOE grant is particularly compelling to him.

He hasn’t studied all the possibilities, but the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado appeals to his solar energy interest, and he said Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee boasts the most powerful supercomputer in the world.

For now, Bready is grateful for the recognition from the DOE and the NSF. He also feels indebted to all the professors in the chemistry and mathematics departments with a special shout-out to his mentors George Shields, professor of chemistry, and Christian Millichap, professor of mathematics.

“Even before I committed to Furman, Dr. Shields showed he cared about me and wanted to help me reach my full potential,” Bready said. “He has provided me so much experience both in a lab setting and outside at the various conferences he helped me attend.”

“I’m thankful for Dr. Millichap, who is not just an incredible professor, but also a great person and someone that I feel I can talk to about anything going on in my life,” Bready said.

Finally, Bready is grateful for his club soccer and badminton teammates. Even die-hard scientists need a chance to unwind.

“I have worked incredibly hard in academia to pursue my goals, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my amazing teammates. They have been my support network for my entire time at Furman, and I am really going to miss everyone,” he said.

Contact Us
Clinton Colmenares
Director of News and Media Strategy