UTC alumnus Bradley McKeown had no idea a surprise was waiting in his campus mailbox at the University of Virginia where he’s studying for a doctorate in Chemistry. He received a letter informing him he had won The International Precious Metals Institute’s (IPMI) Bright Futures Award. 

“My advisor storms in and begins throwing mail at me. My congratulations letters and conference registration details had been in my mailbox for almost a month! I was excited and very honored to have my research and efforts recognized,” he said.

The Bright Futures Award, sponsored by the Gero Family Trust, is awarded annually to one graduate student for outstanding achievement in the field of precious metals research. The award includes a plaque, $5000 cash prize, and full expenses to a conference in Las Vegas where the award was presented.

Dr. John Lee, Assistant Professor of Chemistry worked with McKeown on several research projects. He explains McKeown’s research in fossil fuels.

“Currently, fossil resources, like oil, natural gas and coal, constitute our major source of stored energy and raw materials for chemical production and plastics.  However, fossil fuels are nonrenewable, which is an emerging cause for both environmental and economical concern. Bradley is working toward new and more efficient methods for the conversion of our existing fossil feedstocks to chemicals of higher value in order to simultaneously reduce environmental impact and keep costs low,” Lee said.

McKeown got his start with research during his undergraduate years at UTC.

“The Chemistry Department at UTC, with its strong emphasis on undergraduate research, excels at preparing their graduates for the next step, whether that be graduate school or industry,” he said.

McKeown attributes his success to the professors who mentored him during his time at UTC.

“All of my professors were influential and contributed to getting me to where I am today. However, I attribute my success from the mentoring I received from Drs. Kyle Knight and Greg Grant. They’re brilliant scientists and even greater educators, and have been a great resource and support since I left UTC,” he said.

Dr. Greg Grant, UTC Grote Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, had praise for his former student.

“Bradley was an excellent student.  He took a national standardized exam from the American Chemical Society and scored in the top 3% of students taking the exam nationally! Bradley always had a different and interesting take on chemistry. He was a great and enjoyable student to have in my classes,” Grant said.

McKeown is completing his fifth year of graduate school and expects to defend this coming May for a Ph.D in Chemistry.

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