April 26, 2011

Dakota McCoy Wins Goldwater Scholarship

Sophomore to Study Behavioral and Cognitive Science

SPRINGFIELD, Va. – Last month, sophomore Dakota McCoy was selected as one of 275 recipients of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes undergraduate excellence in science, mathematics and engineering. Each scholar is awarded up to $7,500 annually to be applied towards tuition, room and board, fees and books. Sophomore recipients receive two years of funding while junior recipients receive one.

The program was founded in 1986 in memory of Goldwater, a U.S. Senator for 30 years. This year, 1,095 students applied for the scholarship after being endorsed by their universities. The scholarship seeks "to alleviate a critical current and future shortage of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers" and "to provide a continuing source of highly qualified individuals to those fields of academic study and research." Most students selected to receive the scholarship intend to complete doctoral degrees.

McCoy, an ecology and evolutionary biology major, will spend this summer working in the comparative cognition laboratory of Laurie Santos in the Psychology Department. The lab studies the behavioral and cognitive science of primates, which is a principal interest of McCoy's. She is also extremely interested in paleontology, and will try to decide between the two as she continues her education. "I definitely want to go to graduate school and pursue a PhD, probably in ecology, evolution, and behavioral biology," she said.

Though only a sophomore, McCoy is already a key member of the Yale track and field team, competing in the hurdles races and the javelin throw. Her freshman year, she was 10th in the 400-meter hurdles at the outdoor Ivy League Track and Field Championships with a season-best time of 1:04.27. That year she also placed second at the annual Harvard-Yale dual meet in the 400-meter hurdles. So far this season, she placed fourth in the javelin throw at Harvard-Yale on Apr. 16 with a collegiate best of 32.36m.

McCoy finds many similarities between running track and conducting research.

"Track and field teaches you the value of diligence, commitment, teamwork and patience—all aspects of scientific research. You don't immediately run a perfect hurdles race on the first day; you work towards improving over a long time scale, learning how to deal with minor setbacks on the path to your ultimate goal. Research is very similar," she said.

Report by Natalie Villa '13, Yale Sports Publicity