Brad Douglas Felicetti once lacked career direction, but now the Northern Arizona University student has received an award for his steadfast stride on a path to help cure cancer.

Felicetti, a sophomore in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, received a $7,500 annual scholarship for two years, from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.

The funding will help keep Felicetti on track to earn a doctorate in biological chemistry and eventually a medical degree, both with a focus on researching cancer cures.

“NAU allowed me to jump right into lab research as a freshman,” he said. “I don’t believe I would have had this research opportunity at most other universities.”

Felicetti, 25, first became interested in medicine and science while serving as a medic in the U.S. Navy. He began taking NAU Distance Learning classes while still in the service.

Personally affected by cancer after losing his grandfather to the disease, Felicetti finds it “an extremely interesting and unique disease in that it is not caused by pathogens but by your own body gone awry,” he said. “Ultimately, I’d like to contribute to the development of a treatment for this disease.”

Upon leaving the service, Felicetti was attracted to complete his studies at NAU due to its academic reputation, smaller class size and opportunity to interact with professors as well as the outdoors.

“After taking classes at NAU and working in the Lewis Biophysics Lab, I became interested in the research side of medicine,” said Felicetti, who admits to being unmotivated while in high school and lacking a career plan. “I find the research on a new approach to cancer treatment at the genetic level extremely fascinating.”

Felicetti, who now has a 4.0 GPA, credits his single mother for instilling a strong work ethic and Edwin Lewis, his mentor, chemistry professor and associate dean for Research in the college, for igniting his interest in scientific discovery.

Lewis said Felicetti’s talent and disciplined motivation, both in the classroom and in the lab, are attributes that interest the Goldwater Foundation.

“His motivation is clearly evident by the wide array of classes he took on while he served in the Navy,” Lewis said. “The fact that he was able to achieve excellent grades under such difficult conditions demonstrates his exceptional work ethic and love of science.”

Lewis said the funding will especially help Felicetti who is attending NAU on a GI bill for 36 months and as a result had to take a heavy course load.

Established in 1986 to honor Barry Goldwater’s 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate, the scholarship supports students heading into careers as scientists, mathematicians and engineers.