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McKayla Procopio

4765

Bold Points

4x

Nominee

1x

Finalist

1x

Winner

Bio

Hi! My name is McKayla Procopio, and I am a third-year Physics major with an Biology and Math minor at Drexel University. I have also completed a certificate in Intermediate French Language Proficiency. I am currently participating in my second co-op at Drexel where I am working in one of Drexel's astrophysics labs researching gravitational lensing, specifically galaxy-galaxy lensing. For my first co-op experience, I worked in the Immunology and Anti-Inflammatory department at Incyte Corporation in Delaware. There, I was primarily in a laboratory setting doing molecular biology assays, creating and optimizing protocols, and doing data analysis. In 2022, I participated in STAR Scholars: an opportunity for undergraduates to partake in full-time research during the summer after their first year. In the fall and winter, I volunteered in the lab as an Undergraduate Research Assistant. I have adjusted my professional and academic goals during my time at Drexel, but I am now aiming to obtain a major in Physics with an astrophysics concentration while also working towards minors in Biology and Math. Outside of work and class, I am also part of Drexel's chapter of Delta Gamma fraternity where I currently hold the position of vp: Foundation. I have also held the title of Director of Scholarship. I am also a Peer Mentor for Drexel's First-Year Exploratory Studies (FYES) program where I assist professors in class during the freshman sequence of the FYES program. I am ambitious and have great goals for myself and I can't wait to see where life takes me!

Education

Drexel University

Bachelor's degree program
2021 - 2024
  • Majors:
    • Physics
  • Minors:
    • Mathematics
    • Biology, General

Cherry Hill High School West

High School
2017 - 2021

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Physics
    • Applied Mathematics
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Research

    • Dream career goals:

      Astrophysicist

    • Astrophysics and Cosmology Co-Op

      Drexel University
      2024 – 2024
    • Inflammation and Auto-Immunity Co-Op

      Incyte Corporation
      2023 – 2023
    • STAR Scholar, Undergraduate Research Assistant

      Drexel University Department of Biology
      2022 – 20231 year
    • Merchandise Associate

      Sierra Trading Post
      2021 – 2021

    Sports

    Track & Field

    Club
    2015 – 2015

    Research

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics

      Drexel University — Astrophysics and Cosmology Co-Op
      2024 – 2024
    • Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Other

      Incyte Corporation — Inflammation and Auto-Immunity Co-Op
      2023 – 2023
    • Physics

      Drexel University — Part-Time Student Researcher
      2023 – 2024
    • Cell/Cellular Biology and Anatomical Sciences

      Drexel University — Undergraduate Research Assistant
      2022 – 2023
    • Pre-Medicine/Pre-Medical Studies

      MEDAcademy at Cooper Medical School — Participant
      2019 – 2019

    Arts

    • Pit Orchestra

      Music
      "Chicago" School Musical
      2019 – 2019
    • High School Wind Ensemble

      Music
      2017 – Present
    • Middle School Band

      Music
      2014 – 2017
    • High School Play

      Acting
      October 2017
      2017 – 2017
    • High School Musical

      Theatre
      March 2018
      2018 – 2018

    Public services

    • Advocacy

      National Honor Society — Participant
      2020 – Present
    • Volunteering

      Angels Helping Animals — Volunteer to feed feral cats at sites
      2019 – Present
    • Volunteering

      National Honor Society — Tutor
      2020 – Present

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Volunteering

    Connie Konatsotis Scholarship
    Hello! I'm McKayla and I am an aspiring astrophysicist. Alongside my studies in physics at Drexel University, I am also minoring in math and biological sciences. As if that were not enough, I have also completed a certificate in Intermediate French Language Proficiency. While my studies may seem like they are not very intertwined with each other, I have had many supporters who helped me develop an interest in each of these fields. Many of my supporters include my high school teachers, mostly my female science teachers. I grew a love for the sciences in high school after years of curiosity about the cosmos and nature. I also had a French teacher who developed my skill in the language into a love. My achievements would not have been possible without these teachers supporting me. I hope one day to achieve the same goal of inspiring people about a field. I am still not certain about what my end goal is in a career, but I know it involves outreach. I want to get more young people interested and passionate about physics and space. Taking classes in biology, there is usually a very equal representation of women in the lectures than men. However, when I go into my physics lectures and labs, the same cannot be said. The truth is that less than a quarter of degrees in physics are awarded to women (https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf23315/report/science-and-engineering-degrees-earned#overall-s-e-degrees-earned-by-women). In the future I hope to have a career where I can continue learning about physics every day but still have an active role in community outreach. One of my favorite things about science in particular is that is evolves each and every day. The wealth of knowledge in STEAM will never run out. My dream job would be to work in a planetarium at a science museum. Ideally, I would want to be able to conduct astronomical research while being a speaker at the planetarium and share my knowledge. I hope to make an impact on students who come as a part of their field trip and adults who attend the planetarium for fun. I also have an interest in being a professor and being able to conduct research at a university level. I would want to teach students, both physics majors and non-physics majors and try to help them as they progress through their studies while being a fair and caring educator. I also recognize that due to low numbers of women in STEM and physics, especially, that there will be challenges that are unique to women. I have faced them myself. Currently, I am the only woman in my research group of 6 and I have frequently been the only woman in lab groups in physics classes. In classes, I have received numerous comments about my intelligence and capabilities, as well as being told to step back because "you're a girl". I do think that people are often scared away from physics because they hear it is too hard, which is exactly why I was not a physics student at the beginning of college. People don't always use physics and fascinating in the same sentence like I do. As a potential educator, whether it be as a planetarium speaker or a professor, I strive to ignite passion and interest of physics for students and create an empowering learning environment. Physics has been a very challenging major, but it is extremely rewarding. I hope that one day I can be as much of an inspiration to young scientists as my high school teachers were to me.
    Imm Astronomy Scholarship
    Winner
    Even as a young girl, space always piqued my interest. One of my earliest memories is from pre-k, when my mom was going to come into class and read a book from my collection at home. The night before, she had me pick out one of my books from my collection. Without hesitation, I picked There’s No Place Like Space by Tish Rabe, a book I frequently read at home. I remember my mom coming in and reading it to my class the following day. In elementary school, we had our first space unit in second grade, which perfectly coincided with the total lunar eclipse that occurred in December of 2010. We learned about the seasons, the elliptical orbit of the Earth around the sun, and eclipses. When I went home and talked about my day with my parents, I had even more questions about why these events happen, to which my dad directed me to his National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky, which had a lot of technical information but also included pictures, which were more fascinating to 8-year-old me.  As I got older, I still continued to have my passion for space, but my hope started to dwindle after hearing over and over about how opportunities in astronomy were too difficult for me. I tried to lean into other career opportunities, but I didn’t want to abandon my hope for astronomy and astrophysics. When applying to colleges, I wanted to be a physics major and do my concentration in astrophysics. As the start date for my first fall term approached, I started to fear that all of the noise I'd heard in years past was true, and I doubted myself. I changed my major to undeclared for my first year. I took coursework in biology and physics my freshman year while also completing general education requirements. There was a strong pull towards physics, but it was still daunting. After completing research experiences in biology during my sophomore year and even declaring a major in biology, I started to miss physics more, and I wanted to go back. I made the jump and declared physics as a major once again, and I had the task of catching up in my coursework. It has been very tough, but I have been successful. I am currently doing my co-op experience, part of Drexel’s curriculum, researching astrophysics and cosmology, utilizing data from the Dark Energy Survey within Drexel’s Department of Physics.  One of my favorite aspects of physics is the way it makes me think. The thought process never truly stops, whether I am working on a problem set or in my co-op experience. “Why is this pendulum moving this way? What can gravitational lensing tell us? Where could other carbon-based life forms be in the universe?” are all thoughts that allow me to think deeper at the physical properties that define the way the world works. As a result, I have an interest in physics and astronomy that grows daily.  I have two more years of undergrad left before moving on to graduate school, where I hope to do a Ph.D. in physics and study astronomy and astrophysics. After that, the ideal job for me would be researching exoplanets for potential signs of life at NASA. I attended an event at a local museum in Philadelphia regarding astrobiology, and it fueled even more questions in my head that I would love to find answers to, whether I read about the answers in a paper or I discover them myself.
    Eras Tour Farewell Fan Scholarship
    For me, the Eras Tour was all about reminiscing and I think that way Taylor's mission. While we were reliving the days of her earliest albums and her journey to the present, she also wanted us to reflect on the times we had during our own eras of our life. When the Eras Tour was announced, my listening style of Taylor Swift's discography changed from listening to one or two songs here and there to listening to an entire album in a row. This change in listening patterns gave me a new perspective on her albums. Personally, "1989" came out at a pivotal point in my life: middle school. It was not a particularly fabulous part of my life, but it was an era of growth and learning about myself. I was still dedicated to listening to "1989" using my iPhone 4s with my low quality Hot Topic earbuds. I missed the messages from Taylor in the album about moving to a new city (such as I did with college) or heartbreaks (which I have now encountered). At 11, I couldn't understand the deep themes in her music that I have now come to love. Similarly, the Eras Tour allowed me to reflect with "evermore" more than I had before. While its songs may be more storytelling than personal narrative, many of the songs on the album resonate with so many of her fans. At the time the album came out, I couldn't relate to many of the songs personally. And now that I've gotten older and allowed myself the time to reflect, I realize that these stories she tells in the songs hit me emotionally. "tolerate it" hit especially deep for me when I reflected about a past relationship and how loveless and one-sided it felt at the end. While not every detail of my experience lines up with the lyrics in Taylor's song, it was still enough for me to feel the emotions Taylor put into the song and especially reminded me that I was not alone in my experience. Taylor also added "marjorie" to the album, which was a song I could not relate to until 2021, when I lost my first grandparent, Pop. This song had a personal connection to Taylor and she added in the fact that she can still feel the presence of her grandmother around her, even if she isn't physically there. The memories and stories that continually get shared about Pop are proof that when Taylor sang "what died didn't stay dead/you're alive, you're alive in my head." is truth. I didn't get to go to the Eras Tour in-person, unfortunately, but I was able to see the Eras Tour Movie on the weekend it came out. When Taylor started singing "marjorie", I cried. I have processed the pain of a toxic relationship and no longer feel the pain from it, but grief is something that always sticks with me. In the recording, it was like I was experiencing Taylor's raw emotions and the progress I have made in dealing with my grief was safely unwound, only to be healed again in the end. The Eras Tour truly allowed me to listen to all of Taylor Swift's music again in a new perspective as a 20 year old. I allowed myself to treat her discography as new music, almost like a fresh start. There are so many experiences I have had since the original albums came out that I was able to reflect on when the Eras Tour was announced and even while watching the Eras Tour Movie.
    Learner Math Lover Scholarship
    I love math simply because it gives quantifiable explanations for why things happen. It allows roller coasters to be safe to ride and optimizes container sizes for material production. In middle school, I used to despise math; it was complex and abstract. As I took higher levels of math, such as calculus, I started to see its application in everyday life, and my perspective began to change. Earlier today, I was designing a poster for an upcoming presentation. I knew the width was 39 inches, and I wanted my three columns to be equal in width. I did basic math to accomplish what I find to be organization. I saw the importance of calculus in my physics class, which made it much easier to comprehend than an algebra-based course. I am not the first person to notice that math is complex. However, understanding it to the level of explaining it concisely to others is an immensely empowering feeling. As a future biologist, I know math will be a pertinent part of my future education and career. A deep understanding of calculus and statistics is imperative in biology, and I am confident in my current knowledge of these types of math.
    Mental Health Movement x Picmonic Scholarship
    In my 18 years of life, I have faced tremendous problems and overcome many things. Mental health has always been something that has been important to my family. After my uncle lost his life to mental illness, we as a family, have placed more importance on maintaining our mental health and treating it the same way we treat our physical health. While my uncle's death was difficult for me, my personal experience with my own mental health has helped guide me in my educational pathway. In 2017, I was 14, in 8th grade, anxious, lacking confidence, and also going through cancer treatment. I was dealing with the typical 14-year-old friend drama and trying to undergo harsh chemotherapy. My oncologists recognized that this would be hard on me and that I might benefit from talking to a psychologist. I refused at first, thinking that my case wasn't that bad and I could just deal with it myself. Reluctantly, I agreed and started talking to the oncology team's psychologist when I was in the hospital for treatment. We talked about my diagnosis and treatment as well as my social life. I continued going to therapy up through the pandemic when my appointments became virtual. I have learned to embrace my cancer journey. I have learned a lot about myself, I no longer feel like I need to hide my scars, and I aspire to be an oncologist in the future. For my undergraduate degree, I am currently a first-year exploratory studies major, however, I am applying to be a part of the custom-designed major program for my second year until graduation. With this, I hope to combine aspects of health sciences, psychology, and sociology in order to become a well-rounded pre-med student. Ultimately, my goal after I complete my undergraduate studies is to answer the question of, "how does a medical diagnosis or treatment affect mental health and how can this understanding be used to give better medical care?". I hope to use my undergraduate studies to help me as an oncologist to become a more caring, sympathetic, and overall better physician.
    Rosemarie STEM Scholarship
    When I was talking to my oncologist three years ago about how she inspired me to pursue a career in medicine, specifically oncology, she gave me advice that I have kept with me ever since. She told me, "major in something you have a passion for because it will push you to work as hard as you can and you'll want to work hard for something you care about." My entire oncology team was female which inspired me even further to pursue a degree in medicine. At that point, I believed my passion to be in biology, partly because I couldn't differentiate the feeling of enjoying a class and having a passion for the subject, but also because I thought in order to be a doctor, you could only major in biology, chemistry, or biomedical studies. During my junior year of high school, I started to tour colleges. I always put my major of interest as biology. One of the first schools I visited was Hofstra. I was talking to my admissions counselor, who could see my lack of enthusiasm when talking about studying biology. He informed me that I would be able to study anything I wanted during my undergraduate studies so long as I complete the prerequisites for medical school and that there is not just one way to prepare for medical training. Also during my junior year, I took physics for the first time. From the first day, I knew I would love the class. My teacher was fantastic and said her goal was to promote the study of physics because she did not feel supported as a woman in STEM and she wanted to empower more women to pursue studies in STEM. Physics came easy to me and it just made sense. As the year went on, I started to enjoy the class more and more. Eventually, we started our unit on gravitation. This small chapter reignited my love for astronomy. Given that I was not able to take an astronomy class in high school, I figured that my interest in the cosmos would have to be left in my youth. This reignition of my interest in astronomy combined with my recent discussion with my Hofstra admissions counselor made me decide that I wanted to study physics while continuing my focus in pre-med. During this time, I had a good friend who was undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of cancer. I was frequently someone that mutual friends would come to if they had questions about cancer in general, chemo, radiation, or any other medical questions. While I deeply appreciated educating others in medicine, it started to affect me mentally and leading to survivor's guilt. It made me wonder if I was going to be strong enough to become an oncologist in the future. One night when I was pondering my future, I researched different specialties of medicine and I came about the specialty of aerospace medicine. This is a subspecialty of preventative medicine that focuses primarily on the care for astronauts before, during, and after their missions into space. The goal is to ensure patient safety to minimize complications while on the mission and to prevent harm when returning to Earth's atmosphere and readjusting to life at home. As of right now, I am committed as a physics major with a focus in pre-med. I also hope to continue my studies in French. After I finish my undergraduate degree, I strive to continue on to medical school. Whether I become an oncologist or an aerospace physician, my goal is to have a positive impact on people and inspire them to find their passion and chase their dreams.
    Simple Studies Scholarship
    I discovered one of my passions at the age of 14 when I went through treatment for stage III cancer. The all-female oncology team that I had during my treatment inspired me. During the three months of my treatment, I became fascinated by medicine, and I knew that I wanted to become a physician. I started to read books about medicine such as "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" and "Diagnosis". I also decided to take an anatomy and physiology class in my sophomore year of high school. Another passion I have is in the field of astronomy. Ever since I was very young, I was intrigued by the planets and the stars. In middle school, I wanted to be a rocket scientist. When I recognized my passion for medicine, I thought I had to put my love for the universe aside because I thought to myself, "there's no way that these two things can connect in any way." It turns out I was incorrect, but it took me a few years to realize it. In my junior year of high school, I took physics for the first time and it made perfect sense to me. It was one of the few classes that I was genuinely excited to go to every single day. When we got to the unit about universal gravitation and Kepler's laws, I reflected on my love for outer space. That night, I went home and researched opportunities that could combine practicing medicine and studying the stars. I found a highly specialized branch of medicine called aerospace medicine. These physicians, also called flight surgeons, would be the doctors who monitor astronauts before, during, and after their missions. With space exploration on the rise, I can predict that there will be an increase in job openings for an aerospace physician. In college, I want to major in physics as well as take the pre-med track. I am taking my second year of a physics class, and I still feel the same enjoyment as I did when I first took it in junior year. If possible, I will specialize in astrophysics when I am in my undergraduate program. I would also like to complete research that studies the effect of space travel on the human body. After undergraduate, I aspire to go to medical school. When I graduate from medical school, I will apply to one of the five residency programs for aerospace medicine. My biggest dream is to be a flight surgeon for SpaceX, NASA, or one of the new companies created in the coming years. While my dreams may seem ambitious, my ultimate goal is to study space travel to ensure the safety of astronauts while they are on missions.
    Austin Kramer Music Scholarship
    A song that inspires me is "We Are All Made of Stars" by Moby. This 2002 song describes how life is unpredictable and grueling sometimes but reminds us how we are all essentially created from the same elements as stars are. To many people, the stars are signs of beauty and light. In my playlist, I have included songs with inspirational lyrics as well as songs that reference space. Moby's song combines both aspects. Space and astronomy are motivators for me since having a career that involves space travel is a goal of mine.
    Nikhil Desai Reflect and Learn COVID-19 Scholarship
    When everyone around me keeps telling me "this is the new normal", I always reject it. No, it can't be! I can't take it anymore! COVID-19 has had many impacts on my day-to-day life, some good, some bad, and some that I still have to process. On Friday the 13th of March 2020, we were told that we would not be moving to remote learning. I was a junior in my US History II class. My class was watching the live broadcast from the superintendent of the district. Many of us just wanted two weeks off of school. Later that day, the superintendent put out another letter to the district saying that the county and the state recommended that schools close for two weeks as a precaution. In retrospect, I wish I knew that that day was the last day I would spend in school until the second semester of my senior year. I would have said bye to my teachers, asked to borrow books from my former English teacher, and appreciated the school environment a little bit more. Luckily, my band director had a good premonition about what was to come so he recommended that we take our instruments and music home. I lugged my bass clarinet out to my car that day thinking that it would be back in cubby number 183 in no time. As a cancer survivor, I worried about my immune system and how my body would react if I ever contracted the virus. It had been three years since my last treatment, but I still thought about it often. I still take precautions as if I am immunocompromised just to err on the side of caution. During this time, I was able to become closer to one of my friends, who was also concerned about contracting the virus due to his own health. We often talked to each other about how we were feeling and thinking about the case numbers in our county and town rise. Even though a lot of the events from COVID-19 have affected me negatively, I can easily say that I have learned a lot about myself. When lockdown first began, one of my friends introduced me to another one of her friends, and almost every night, the three of us talked on Discord and played games on our laptops. A few weeks later, we learned how to use Netflix Party and we would watch movies together while talking on Discord. Another group of friends and I have a Discord server where we talk often as well. Usually, we'll talk about our days, shows and movies we're watching, and talk about how we miss school. If you told me a year ago that I'd miss going to school, I would have laughed in disbelief. I learned that I could find alternatives to seeing people in person that worked very well. In the months prior to COVID-19, my dad had found a cousin living in Italy and we set up times to Skype with her and her family during the lockdown. When we Skype with her, we discuss the lockdown and how school has been going in Italy. It has been especially interesting to learn how other countries are handling the virus. Also during this time, I have had to figure out how to learn on my own. When we turned to all-remote learning for the rest of the school year, I was left to do preparation for the AP tests on my own. I started to struggle more in some of my classes. In my US History II class, my grade dropped for the last two marking periods and I felt like it was impossible to pass the last half of the year. There were days that I spent 12 hours doing work for all of my classes in one day. By the time that AP tests came around, I was stressed beyond belief. Clicking the submit button after each test didn't relieve any stress. I didn't know it at the time, but I taught myself a lot of material during the three months that I was out of school and that showed based on my scores from my AP tests. For US History, I spent a lot of time completing the assignments and doing extra credit work to bring my final average to a B in the class. At the beginning of my senior year, I started to college applications. I felt that I had no resources and that there was minimal support from the school. My friends and I were going back and forth asking questions about applications because the guidance counselors weren't helping us too much. I took it upon myself to do the research and learned how to apply to college. I learned what FAFSA and CSS Profiles are, what a SRAR is, and how to ask for a letter of recommendation. Fortunately, I got my applications in and the acceptance letters came shortly after! I learned that even though the people who I thought would be supporting me through the college process weren't there, I would receive help from many other people. The pandemic has forced me to look at our country and the differences between the United States and many other places in the world. COVID-19 has shown me that there are many divides in our country that makes it hard for everyone to work together for the greater good. While other countries show true collectivism, the United States shows individualism in the aspect that people only care about themselves rather than others. This mindset is the reason why we can't go back to life the way that we used to live. I missed out on seeing my cousin while she was a baby and it's been almost a year since I've hugged my grandparents, but it's not just about me. I just wish that people would care about other people so that they can see their baby cousins and hug their grandparents.
    Amplify Women in STEM Scholarship
    In May of 1961, NASA was preparing to send Alan Shepard into space as part of the first human spaceflight in the United States. Behind the scenes, a woman named Katherine Johnson was doing trajectory analysis for this mission, called Freedom 7. Eight years prior, NACA, now NASA, hired Johnson to work in the all-Black computing section. Johnson also helped to calculate the trajectory for Apollo 11, the first American spaceflight that put humans on the Moon. As a Black woman during a time of segregation, Johnson faced many hardships due to her race and gender. Her name is still not widely known, but her work helped create the many successes of NASA's launches during her career. Throughout her entire life, she continued to support students who desired to enter the field of STEM. Johnson is a role model as well as an inspiration for women like me who strive to enter the discipline of STEM. Her achievements can be exemplified by her receiving the award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2015. Throughout my schooling, I have performed very well in science and math. I've known for a while that I wanted to pursue a career in STEM, but for a lot of that time, I was never sure which field I wanted to study. In middle school, I wanted to be an aerospace engineer for NASA. After my cancer diagnosis in eighth grade, I wanted to be an oncologist or a cancer biologist. However, in my junior year of high school, I decided that I wanted to combine all of my interests in medicine, biology, physics, and space and work as an aerospace physician for either NASA or SpaceX. As a space medicine specialist, I would tend to astronauts and focus their care to optimize their health and safety while in space. The physical aspect of space travel is harsh enough on the human body, but the mental facet can be taxing as well. Astronauts go through long periods in which they are not with their family and other people that they love. With this career goal, I hope to be part of a team that finds creative solutions to the challenge of space travel. Even if I do not create the perfect solution, I hope to pave the way for future generations of scientists to continue finding ingenious ways to enhance space travel. Another goal I have is to empower women who are fascinated by the field of STEM by doing community outreach both while in college and in my career. When I reach the end of my career, my ultimate goal is to be proud of the work that I have done. Additionally, I know I will be proud of the future generations of women in STEM.