Late this summer, the Southwest Chemical Association named Bree Cooper the awardee of the Nicholas Chopey Scholarship at its annual Scholarship Luncheon in Houston. The CBME Junior was the recipient of $4,000 for her essay explaining where she thinks she could make the greatest impact in the engineering industry and why her contributions would be important to the industry itself.
Cooper describes herself as being, “from one of those small towns where you know everyone…it has a population of about 1,600 and I graduated with about 50 other kids.” Her interest in STEM was ironically encouraged by a lack of upper-level math and science courses in her high school. Feeling that she was missing out on a bigger understanding of the world, she chose to attend the Oklahoma School of Science and Math’s satellite campus her Senior year of High School in order to take the more challenging classes.
“It was an intense learning curve for me” she admits, jumping from algebra and basic chemistry to AP calculus and AP physics, but she “enjoyed this new abstract way of thinking.” Cooper credits her parents for their encouragement and support in helping her get through the last two semesters of high school, “(they) helped me back up to try again, to get where I am today,” and also credits her teachers, Mr. Brown and Mrs. Butler, for introducing her to the field of engineering.
Cooper decided to attend OU, “because I wanted to attend a college that no one else I graduated with went to. I wanted to begin this new chapter of my life on my own and find out more about myself.” In addition to her course load she is the Native Outreach Chair for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (the chapter currently ranks number one in the world.) She originally heard about the Southwest Chemical Association scholarship from the CBME Undergraduate Programs Coordinator Madena McGinnis.
When considering the essay topic: “As you work towards your graduation, where do you see your greatest impact being in the indI believe that my greatest impact will be on mentoring youth. I come from a very small town with not a lot of opportunities for upper science and technology careers. I'm a first generation college student, low-income, and Native American, so how I'm paying for college is my biggest worry every year. I beat so many obstacles to get here and I could've easily fell through the cracks of my small town like I saw so many of my family and friends do. I know I can relate to underrepresented youth and show them that you can achieve anything you want to as long as you have determination and hope.”
She writes passionately about encouraging Native Americans, women, and people who have struggled to achieve despite the odds in STEM career fields: “they bring to the table…different perspectives that these fields need.”
In regards to her own situation, winning the $4,000 Nicholas Chopey Scholarship has “helped immensely, since I take care of all (my own) monetary needs.” Over the summer, Cooper was able to conduct research in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey, “I wouldn’t have been able to get the initial plane ticket without this scholarship.”
Bree Cooper is currently pursuing a Computer Science minor in addition to her Chemical Engineering major, and will be graduating with the class of 2018.