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Kennesaw State University CSM major Trae Dunn poses in a lab recently.

Kennesaw State junior Trae Dunn, a biology major who is researching the human brain to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, has been awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

The Goldwater Scholarship recognizes the nation’s top undergraduate scholars in the sciences, mathematics and engineering. One of 396 recipients selected this year, Dunn is the third KSU student to win a Goldwater, joining Jiexi Liao in 2013 and Biya Haile in 2019.

The Goldwater Scholarship is the latest addition to Dunn’s academic resume. In 2019, he presented his work on understanding how genes mutate to produce abnormalities that cause disorders such as epilepsy at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research. That same year, Dunn was one of four student researchers selected to represent KSU at the inaugural Posters at the Georgia State Capitol. He also served as a summer fellow working in the lab of Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and Nobel laureate Robert Horvitz.

An Honors student, Dunn became interested in research during the first semester of his freshman year when he began working with Martin Hudson, a neuroscientist and associate professor of biology in the College of Science and Mathematics. Later in his freshman year, Dunn became one of the College’s 10 Birla Carbon Scholar recipients.

According to Amy Buddie, director of undergraduate research at Kennesaw State, Dunn’s experience as a first-year student researcher is exactly what the University’s First-Year Scholars Program is all about. Launched last year, the program pairs first-year students with highly productive scholars on campus and immerses them into a culture of research with relevance. Buddie said Dunn’s success can inspire others to get engaged in research as early as possible.

Dunn, of Alpharetta, says what keeps him motivated is that he sees how research can impact a person’s quality of life, which is something he learned firsthand when his grandfather was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

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