Congratulations, Kaylia Cooper, 2023 FAU Student Talon Leadership Award WinnerThursday, Nov 16, 2023
This year’s Student Talon Leadership Award was presented to Kaylia Cooper, an undergraduate researcher in the Honors in Biological Sciences program within the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. Cooper is the founding director of the Medi-Futures FAU Virtual Shadowing Program, which helps students connect with various health professionals and enables them to learn from seasoned experts in their field.
In October, Florida Atlantic University hosted its annual Talon Leadership Awards ceremony as part of Homecoming 2023. The awards recognize outstanding faculty, student, alumni, and community leadership. Co-sponsored by the FAU Alumni Association and the Homecoming Committee, the Talon Awards have been presented during Homecoming week since 1997.
“It feels amazing and surreal to have won!” expressed Cooper. “The best part is that my hard work and efforts are recognized. This is also amazing exposure for the Medi-Futures FAU Virtual Shadowing program.”
The senior Medical Biology major launched FAU’s Medi-Futures program because she had previously participated in the parent program “Medi-Gators,” and she wanted her fellow Owls to be able to experience what she did.
"The goal of the program is to increase opportunities for Pre-Health students to efficiently learn about a wide breadth of health careers, particularly for students from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds,” stated Cooper. “We help students decide what health career they are interested in and provide opportunities for them to reach out to a professional in that field.”
Growing up, Cooper’s interests always focused on the body and how it functions. She chose a major that would offer the most classes about human biology.
“I also decided to do a minor in Health Administration because I wanted to know more about the administrative side of the healthcare system, so I will grow an appreciation for the administrative team that I will be working with when I become a medical doctor,” Cooper shared.
Today, she is an undergraduate research student in the lab of Kailiang Jia, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Sciences in the Schmidt College of Science. Jia uses C. elegans as a model organism to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which autophagy regulates aging. Aging is a risk factor for many human diseases including cancer and neurodegeneration. Lab students run experiments using worms with mutated genes to observe how it affects their lifespan.
In addition to being a Talon Award recipient, Cooper has accumulated many other accolades during her undergraduate years. She has been named to the Dean’s List five times, named to the President’s List four times, is a recipient of the Mildred and Rudy Reis Endowed Scholarship, and is a Soar-in-4 Scholar. She is also a Vice President of FAU’s Pre-Health Ambassadors, and she is a mentor in the First-year Mentor Collective Program.
Following her anticipated graduation in spring 2024, Cooper plans to apply to medical school. She is interested in the fields of Pathology and Obstetrics/Gynecology.
“I want to pursue my dream of becoming a medical doctor!” expressed Cooper. “And my first choice is FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine."