KSU junior wins prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

KENNESAW, Ga. | Apr 6, 2020

Biology major Trae Dunn is KSU’s third Goldwater winner

Kennesaw State junior Trae Dunn, a biology major who is researching nervous system development in worms to better understand human disorders, 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.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for a young scholar, and we are so very proud of Trae for being selected for this honor,” said Kennesaw State President Pamela Whitten. “Trae is among the best of the best at KSU, and he has distinguished himself through his many accomplishments. We look forward to supporting him as he continues on his journey and are excited for what we expect will be a bright future.”

Trae Dunn

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.

“Trae is a perfect example of how taking on opportunities in research and scholarship at KSU from the moment you arrive on campus can propel you to success beyond your expectations,” Buddie said. “When Trae joined the laboratory of Dr. Hudson his freshman year, he was immersed into a culture of research excellence. The mentorship of Dr. Hudson and his graduate students as well as from more seasoned undergraduates in the lab provide benefits beyond compare for a burgeoning scholar like Trae.”

Dunn, of Alpharetta, says that 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.

“Now, I am not only looking at it through the eyes of a researcher, I’m looking at it as a person who has been directly impacted and it makes me focus that much more on my goal of becoming a neurologist,” he said. “I want to be at the forefront of changing Alzheimer’s into a curable disease and helping others like my grandfather.”

– Dave Shelles

Photos by Rob Witzel

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.