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Saturday, Dec 27, 2014

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J.J. Reagh

Photo courtesy of: Office of Nationally Competitive Awards

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Boren winner heads to Turkey


Even though he doesn't know a word of Turkish, senior biological sciences major J.J. Reagh will spend the next year in Turkey studying biodefense. Reagh won a National Security Education Program Boren Scholarship, which provides up to $20,000 of support.

"The reality of it hasn't really hit yet. I am interested to experience another culture and start learning another language," Reagh said.

The Boren is granted to students who are interested in issues of national security and who want to study in a country that is both critical to U.S. interests and typically underrepresented in study abroad trips. Upon accepting the award, recipients also agree to be employed by the federal government for one year within three years after they return.

"As a predominantly Muslim country … Turkey is considered a critical ally. They are also seen as a critical ally to understanding the Middle East. It's a good bridging point," Reagh said.

Reagh, too, will serve as a bridge as a U.S. representative in Turkey. He will be studying biological pathogenic defense, specifically biological warfare weapons, with scientists in Turkey and will be attending Bogazici University in Istanbul during his year abroad.

"Turkey has a great biodefense program. Their federal government is fairly involved with investigating the most harmful pathogens, especially those that are interpreted to be the most likely to be a biological weapon," he said. "They are a very up-and-coming country in science in general."

With this knowledge, Reagh hopes to become a physician in the U.S. military, specifically in the Air Force, where he would specialize in biodefense. After that, he could transfer to the Department of Defense to be a collaborative scientist between the U.S. and Turkey.

In order to garner the competitive Boren scholarship, Reagh had to submit an extensive essay on how he planned to spend the year in Turkey, where he hoped to study and what contacts he had made. Another essay required him to explain how his study abroad would play into his future role in the federal government. He discovered the Boren scholarship application through the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards (ONCA) and ONCA director Beth Clodfelter.

"I would like to thank Beth Clodfelter for her hard work, mentorship and motivation throughout the Boren application process. I would also like to thank Marilyn Walton for her editing, and my good friend Zach Walsh (AKA "the think-tank") for always churning out helpful ideas and providing inspiring conversation," Reagh said.