Two Ogden Honors, biological sciences students named 2023 Goldwater and Astronaut Scholars

June 26, 2023

Kenedi Lynch and Rachael Coates

Ogden Honors juniors Rachael Coates and Kenedi Lynch were named 2023 Goldwater and Astronaut Scholars, awards that seek to identify, encourage, and financially support students of exceptional promise in becoming the nation’s next generation of research leaders in STEM. Both Coates and Lynch are studying biological sciences in LSU’s College of Science. 

According to Ogden Honors College dean Jonathan Earle the Goldwater Scholarship Program is one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics in the United States.”It’s a tremendous honor to have not just one, but two Goldwater Scholars this year, and for them to receive the Astronaut Scholarship in addition to that is a true testament to their hard work and exceptional talents,” stated Earle.

Coates, a native of Pride, La., is an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Adam Melvin’s lab. Her research is focused on the effects of MAPK15 overexpression in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Her research aims to explore the role MAPK15 overexpression may play in women with this type of TNBC. She recently expanded her research to explore another cell line to establish the relevance of MAPK15 across the triple-negative breast cancer subtype. Coates also started participating in a project in collaboration with Tulane, where she decellularizes tumor tissue to create a scaffold for further study. 

“The most exciting thing about [winning these awards] is that I have proven to myself that I can be successful. I am a first-generation college student, so I worked very hard to get where I am now, and I hope to be an inspiration to other first-gen students,” said Coates. 

Coates is a part of the LSU Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program, which provides high-impact research experiences to a diverse pool of undergraduates and prepares them for entry into graduate programs in the biomedical sciences. Through MARC, she will be going to MIT over the summer for a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) where she will be designing a device to study a step in cancer metastasis known as extravasation, where cancer cells exit circulation and colonize a secondary site to form a metastatic tumor. This is Coates second time being awarded the Astronaut Scholarship as was also a recipient in 2022. 

Lynch, a native of Houston, Tx., is a Stamps Scholar. Her undergraduate research focuses on infectious disease with a concentration on malaria.  

“I think in science disciplines, especially if you’re looking to go to grad school (which I am to pursue an MD-PhD – super competitive), you’re always looking to do something that’s going to set you apart. This seemed like an excellent way to do that considering I’m interested in a degree that will facilitate my future clinical research ambitions,” said Lynch.

Lynch spent last summer doing research at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine under Dr. Netz Arroyo designing and testing E-AB sensors to cheaply and continuously sense blood vancomycin levels in an effort to reduce nephrotoxic effects of the antibiotic in patients. As a result of her work on that project, she  will be listed as a co-author on the upcoming manuscript.

Lynch cites several other relevant research experiences that made her competitive in these scholarship competitions including being chosen as a 2023 LSU Discover Research Project Grant recipient, being on the executive board of Research Ambassadors, being a recipient of the President’s Future Leaders in Research Scholarship, having published research, and undertaking an honors thesis in Dr. Lattin’s Neuroendocrinology and Behavior Lab.