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Two Notable Students Nominated for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Astronaut Scholarship

By Macy Moore

Mikayla Barry ’17 and Maura Cadigan ’17 have been selected as the Texas A&M nominees for the 2016 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Astronaut Scholarship. Both students were nominated for the Goldwater scholarship earlier this year, and they will now compete for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Scholarship with other candidates from institutions such as Georgia Tech, MIT, the University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan.

In 1984, the six surviving members of the Mercury 7 mission created the scholarship to encourage students to pursue scientific endeavors. Awarding $4 million in scholarships to more than 400 of the nation’s top scholars over the last 32 years, the ASF program members include astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs.

Mikayla Barry '17, 2016 Astronaut Scholarship Nominee
Mikayla Barry ’17, 2016 Astronaut Scholarship Nominee

Junior biomedical engineering major Mikayla Barry is Texas A&M’s first Beckman Scholar, serves as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, conducts research in Dr. Melissa Grunlan’s Polymeric Biomaterials lab, and volunteers at the Chemistry Open House, the Physics & Engineering Festival, and SEE Math Camps. Mikayla is particularly passionate about gender imbalance in engineering fields.

“I know we have come a long way since women started venturing out from their expected roles, and I expect that, with time, the workplace environment in STEM fields will become more balanced,” Barry says. “A&M’s Biomedical Engineering department has pretty close to 50 percent female students and a much greater diversity in heritage than I could have predicted. The primary reason I realize gender imbalance is an issue results from the experiences of other engineering friends, mostly in the workforce. I really want them to be able to enjoy the sense of belonging I’ve been able to experience thus far.”

Barry’s focus is to improve STEM participation and integration in education, believing that outreach to under-represented groups, specifically minorities and women, is one of the largest ways to make an impact.

“I personally looked up to women who were not only involved in these fields, but made significant advances, reminding me that I can do the same.” Barry considers Marie Curie a role model as Curie “was esteemed by her peers because of her breakthroughs in understanding radioactivity, and her gender was of no significance.”

Barry intends to earn her Ph.D. in Materials Science, and then join the faculty of a research university. She also aspires to organize STEM outreach for middle school and high school students.

“As a faculty sponsor, I want to encourage collaboration among students of different backgrounds,” Barry says, “and in doing so help them learn to see beyond each others’ differences, effectively preparing them for the environment they will likely see when they become practicing engineers or scientists.”

Maura Cadigan '17, 2016 Astronaut Scholarship Nominee
Maura Cadigan ’17, 2016 Astronaut Scholarship Nominee

Junior aerospace engineering major Maura Cadigan is the first Aggie to be selected for the Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum where she serves as a technical consultant on a multinational research team. She is also the mechanical team lead for the Women in Engineering’s first VEX robotics team and is very active in the Student Engineers Council. Cadigan is passionate about studying the effect of international public policy on multinational collaborations in industrial research.

“The more work experience I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized just how much policy affects the ability of researchers to collaborate and what they can collaborate on,” Cadigan says. “In my opinion, researchers are too restrained by policies for the sake of politics that don’t matter to them. In the future, I want to advocate on behalf of researchers to inform policy.”

When it comes to the ASF astronaut scholarship, Cadigan says she would love to follow in the footsteps of those who have previously been awarded.

“Winning an Astronaut Scholarship would be incredible! It would open so many doors and allow me to join a list of students who went on to do well in their future education and in their careers.”

Following graduation, Cadigan plans to earn a Ph.D. at a top technical school, such as Georgia Tech. After that, she dreams of pursuing a career with NASA or in a government lab such as the Sandia National Laboratories.

To read more about how LAUNCH: National Fellowships helps prepare outstanding students to compete for nationally-competitive awards such as the Astronaut Scholarship with the generous support of the Association of Former Students, please visit http://natlfellows.tamu.edu.

 

 

2015 Astronaut Scholars Announced

Texas A&M is fortunate to announce the designation of two 2015 Astronaut Scholars, Kirstin Maulding ‘16 and Will Linz ‘16. This is the second time that two of our nominees have been selected to receive this prestigious award from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which seeks to recognize outstanding undergraduates working in STEM fields who will have the potential to be next-generation leaders.

2015 Astronaut Scholar Kirstin Maulding '16
2015 Astronaut Scholar Kirstin Maulding ’16

Maulding is an Honors Student from Spring Branch, Texas majoring in molecular and cell biology with minors in genetics and neuroscience. She has been working in biological research since high school and has continued her commitment to research as an undergraduate, both in the lab of Dr. Bruce Riley and as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. Maulding’s combination of ability, creativity, and work ethic resulted in her publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed journal by her sophomore year. Her career goals include pursuing research related to neurological diseases such as Alzheimers. Read Maulding’s nomination profile here.

2015 Astronaut Scholar, Will Linz '16
2015 Astronaut Scholar, Will Linz ’16

Linz is an Honors Student from Temple, Texas majoring in mathematics with a minor in German. When he graduates in May 2016, he will have completed both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics. Linz got involved in undergraduate research as a first-semester freshman, completed his undergraduate thesis as a sophomore, and continues to do research with Dr. Catherine Yan in combinatorics. He has presented his research at professional meetings and campus research expos, and has submitted his work for publication in a top mathematics journal. Linz currently serves on the Executive Board for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal and is also an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. He is planning a career in mathematical discovery and serving as a liaison to help mathematicians and computer scientists develop mathematical tools for practical use in computer science and technology. Read Linz’s nomination profile here.

The campus community is invited to a public lecture and award presentation on Tuesday, October 6 at 10:30 AM with Former Astronaut Charlie Duke (Brigadier General, USAF, Retired) to honor Maulding and Linz and present each of them with a $10,000 scholarship. Following the award presentation, Mr. Duke will give a lecture about his experiences as an astronaut on the Apollo 16 mission and as Capcom on the Apollo 11 mission.

The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for entry and are available through the Memorial Student Center Box Office.

digitalevite_charlieduke_LGRelated: See post honoring Maulding & Linz on the TAMU College of Science Blog

Seventeen Aggies Chosen as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows for 2015

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is one of the most prestigious awards to support graduate students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Over 16,000 applications were submitted for the 2015 NSF Fellowship competition, resulting in 2,000 award offers. This spring, 17 former Texas A&M University students were selected as 2015 NSF Graduate Fellows, while 9 were named Honorable Mention. Most of these students participated in Honors and Undergraduate Research programs while undergraduates, including 13 who completed an undergraduate research thesis as an Undergraduate Research Scholar, 8 who graduated with Honors distinctions, 2 Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, and 3 Authors for Explorations, the undergraduate journal.

2015 NSF Graduate Fellow Dillon Amaya is a first year PhD student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego. While a Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences major and Oceanography minor at Texas A&M Amaya studied paleoclimate, physical oceanography, and climate change with faculty in the Department of Oceanography as well as the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Amaya, a Summa Cum Laude graduate, was the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Astronaut Foundation Scholarship. A member of the inaugural cohort of Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, he holds a strong interest in communicating science to the public.

In response to his selection Amaya said “I am honored to have been chosen for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. This kind of Fellowship gives me the funding and the freedom to do the exciting and innovative research that interests me the most. None of it would be possible, however, without having participated in substantial undergraduate research at Texas A&M. The experience I gained as an undergraduate made my NSF reviewers sit up and take notice. Every single NSF review I received cited my undergraduate research experience at A&M as the primary reason for my nomination for the award. For this reason, I am forever grateful for the opportunities afforded to me during my undergraduate career.”

Dillon Amaya, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences ‘14, shows oceanographic instruments to 5th graders on a tour of the research pier at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
Dillon Amaya, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences ‘14, shows oceanographic instruments to 5th graders on a tour of the research pier at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

Alejandro Azocar, another 2015 NSF Graduate Fellow, graduated Summa Cum Laude with University and Aerospace Engineering Honors. During his time at Texas A&M Azocar completed five cooperative education tours at NASA Johnson Space Center, working in three different research labs. As an Undergraduate Research Scholar, he won two best paper awards from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Region IV Conference for his work in unmanned aircraft simulation (2013) and electromyographically-controlled quadrotors (2015).

Azocar also was the recipient of the 2015 Ammon S. Andes National Award from Sigma Gamma Tau, the national aerospace engineering honor society. This award recognized him as the top aerospace engineering student in the United States based upon his academic, service, and extracurricular accomplishments. Azocar credits his mentors and peers at Texas A&M for his success, saying, “Texas A&M surrounded me with incredible people and opportunities, and allowed me to grow as a researcher, leader, and communicator.” This fall Azocar will begin his PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University. He will be working at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago with a research focus on either bionics or brain-machine interfaces. With NSF support he hopes to develop prosthetic arms, legs, and exoskeletons that can be controlled through the user’s neural signals.

In his spare time Alejandro Azocar, Aerospace Engineering ’15, served as a Texas A&M Foundation Maroon Coat.
In his spare time Alejandro Azocar, Aerospace Engineering ’15, served as a Texas A&M Foundation Maroon Coat.

Honors and Undergraduate Research would like to congratulate the Aggie 2015 National Science Foundation Fellows and Honorable Mentions and acknowledge their valuable contributions to HUR programs!

National Science Foundation 2015 Research Fellowship Awardees:

  • Dillon Amaya, Geosciences, Climate and Large-Scale Atmospheric Dynamics. Undergraduate Research Ambassador and Astronaut Foundation Scholarship recipient
  • Alejandro Azocar, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, University Scholar, and University Honors
  • Ryan Brito, Nuclear Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Foundation Honors, University Honors
  • Christopher Chini, Civil Engineering. Foundation Honors
  • Andrea Delgado, Particle Physics. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Keith Krenek, Electrical Engineering. University Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Timothy Kroeger, Mechanical Engineering. University Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Anna Means, Materials Engineering
  • Andrew Moehlman, Developmental Biology
  • Lakshmi Nathan, Chemical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, University Honors
  • Christopher Pannier, Mechanical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • William Scholten, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Jeremy Seidel, Chemical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Ambassador
  • Zachary Steelman, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Honors Fellows, Explorations author
  • Jeffrey Swofford, Social Sciences, Sustainability
  • Jason Szafron, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Explorations author and Editorial Board
  • William Whitten, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. Explorations author

Honorable Mention:

  • Christopher Akers, Theoretical Physics. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Shelby Bieritz, Biomedical Engineering. Fulbright Award Grantee, Whitaker Fellowship recipient
  • Charles Giattino, Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Dion Hubble, Materials Engineering
  • Kelli Humbird, Biomedical Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Kristin Nichols, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. Undergraduate Research Scholar, Foundation Honors, University Honors
  • Jesse Pyle, Microbial Biology
  • Nicholas Rinkenberger,   Microbial Biology. Undergraduate Research Scholar
  • Michael Whitely, Biomedical Engineering

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Nominee Kirstin Maulding

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation permits only a handful of institutions in the country, based on the strength of their programs in STEM, to nominate candidates for the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship. Texas A&M is one of the few institutions allowed to nominate sophomore or junior STEM majors for this award. Astronaut Scholars become one of a very select group of outstanding students who have demonstrated not only outstanding academic talent, but also incredible creative ability and productivity in research, indicating that they have the potential to become the next generation of leaders pushing the boundaries of science and technology. Texas A&M is proud this year to be nominating three students for the 2015 Astronaut Scholarship competition! Meet the second of our 2015 nominees!

Kirstin Maulding sits in a chair.
Kirstin Maulding ’16, Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Award Nominee

How outstanding do you have to be to become an Astronaut Scholar nominee? When it comes to research creativity and productivity, 2015 TAMU Nominee Kirstin Maulding may have broken the mold. Maulding is in the University Honors and College of Science Honors Programs, majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology with minors in Genetics and Neuroscience from Spring Branch, Texas. She will graduate with a BS in Molecular and Cell Biology in Spring 2016.

Maulding began her interest in biological research as early as the summer between her junior and senior year in high school, becoming a summer intern with National Academy member Dr. James Hudspeth to study sensory neurobiology. Her fascination with the field led her to persuade Dr. Bruce Riley to let her join his research group the summer before her freshman year at Texas A&M, a decision he categorizes as “one of the best” he has made in the past 20 years. Maulding’s exceptional intellectual abilities, independence and drive led her to take over sole ownership of her research project as an incoming freshman when the graduate student mentor she was working with over the summer pulled back to write and defend his thesis. As a freshman Maulding’s incredible scientific maturity and capability resulted in her being given free rein to design key experiments, execute them on her own and analyze the results. She has presented her award-winning work at a departmental poster session and Student Research Week. Maulding’s work progressed so swiftly given her dedication to the project, that she amassed enough data for a first author publication in a peer-reviewed journal by the end of her freshman year! This made her a published author in her sophomore year.

Maulding’s talents are not limited to the bench, as her perfect 4.0 GPR demonstrates. In fact, even among the top students at Texas A&M she shines. Her rigorous class schedule boasts multiple courses a level or two above that of her classification. Within those classes competing with high power pre-med students Maulding easily stands out as the top student, although she is frequently the youngest.

Maulding’s passion for research and its potential to solve problems in society has led her to the realization that she also wants to become a mentor and advocate for student involvement in research. To that end, she is submitting an application to become an Undergraduate Research Ambassador in order to share her experiences with others and inspire them to participate in research activities.

Maulding’s long-term goals include studying the underlying basis of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, a societal problem that will increase dramatically with the “graying” of American society. Maulding hopes that insights she uncovers in her investigation of nervous system development and function will hold the clues that reveal possible treatments for these intractable diseases.

HUR Staff Spotlight: Dr. Suma Datta

Honors and Undergraduate Research presents Dr. Suma Datta, our Executive Director. Dr. Datta coordinates with colleges, programs and centers across campus to improve existing HUR programming and develop new initiatives, she also serves as the HUR advisor for the Explorations journal and the coordinator for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Scholarship nomination process.

Dr. Suma Datta, Executive Director, Honors and Undergraduate Research

Dr. Suma Datta, Executive Director, Honors and Undergraduate Research

Dr. Datta grew up in Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with Honors degrees in Chemistry and in Cell and Molecular Biology. She participated in undergraduate research all four of her undergraduate years, culminating in a senior honors thesis. While at Michigan Dr. Datta also took on leadership positions with a student organization and organized fund-raising activities for charity.

Dr. Datta was awarded an NSF Graduate Fellowship to support her graduate work at the University of California-San Diego in the Department of Biology. Her doctoral thesis focused on understanding how the genes that control the identities of cells are regulated at the molecular level and led to the publication of 5 articles and 3 reviews. Upon receipt of her doctorate, Dr. Datta was awarded a Life Sciences Research Fellowship and moved to Yale University to do postdoctoral research on brain development. During her time at UCSD and Yale, she became a science tutor for high school students and later a mentor and then coordinator of the Academic Mentorship Program in the Sciences.

In 1993 Dr. Datta accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in Biochemistry and Biophysics at Texas A&M with a joint appointment in Biology and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1999. She has been awarded an American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Fellowship, a Senior Ruth Kirschstein Fellowship and multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and American Heart Association for her work in brain development, stem cell division and prostate cancer progression. She has traveled nationally and internationally to speak about her research, organized workshops and chaired sessions at national and international conferences and reviewed grant proposals for foundations and government agencies and manuscripts for prestigious journals. Dr. Datta has continued her interest in student development and mentoring through organizing alternative careers workshops, participating in TAMU Honors programming, teaching Honors classes, presenting at the Women in Science and Engineering conferences and mentoring over 50 undergraduate researchers in her laboratory.

In 2008 Dr. Datta became the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Research, working closely with students and faculty from all across campus. In this capacity she organized the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, coordinated events for REU directors during the summer, ran workshops and training sessions and published the first issue of Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. She joined the Council on Undergraduate Research and was elected to a counselor position in the spring of 2010.

In the fall of 2010 Dr. Datta became the first Executive Director of the new Honors and Undergraduate Research unit, combining the former Honors Programs Office and the Office of Undergraduate Research. She and her staff have expanded the Undergraduate Research Scholars program to include Honors students and students from all colleges, established the Undergraduate Research Ambassadors and developed and launched three new Capstone programs (Undergraduate Teacher Scholar, Undergraduate Service Scholar and Undergraduate Leadership Scholar). A new distinction (Honors Fellows) and associated Honors program (University Honors) have been developed and implemented including an application process and a more robust Living Learning Community experience. She has continued to coordinate publication of Explorations, which just released its sixth issue.

In her spare time, Dr. Datta hangs out with her husband Scott and her two “house lions.” She loves to cook and eat food from different cultures, especially if it is spicy. Luckily she and her husband also love to dance. She is the faculty advisor for TAMBDA, the Texas A&M Ballroom Dance Association, and for AggieWesties, the Texas A&M West Coast Swing Dance Club. Most weekends and some week nights she and Scott can be found on a dance floor somewhere.

Former Astronaut Scott Parazynski, M.D. to Present on Oct. 2

Texas A&M University Honors and Undergraduate Research Invites You to a Public Lecture and Award Presentation Scott Parazynski, M.D. Astronaut - Everest Climber - Physician - Innovator His spaceflight record includes five Space Shuttle Missions and seven spacewalks. He was the first astronaut to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Ms. Amélie Cecile Berger ‘15, Environmental Geosciences Major will be presented an Astronaut Scholarship Foundation AwardThursday, October 2, 2014 1:30–2:30 p.m. Rudder Theatre Free Event | Open to the Public Tickets Required | Available at the MSC Box Office Additional Information: aaevents@tamu.edu or (979) 845-6366
2014 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Invitation

The campus community is invited to a public lecture and award presentation with Former Astronaut Scott Parazynski, M.D. on Thursday, October 2, 2014 from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. in Rudder Theatre.  Dr. Parazynski will present a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation to Amélie Berger, a Texas A&M senior majoring in environmental geosciences. Following the award presentation, Dr. Parazynski will give a lecture about his experiences as a NASA astronaut that included 5 Space Shuttle missions and 7 spacewalks.  An avid mountaineer, he was the first astronaut to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in 2009.  He is also a commercial, instrument, multiengine, and seaplane-rated pilot with over 2,500 flight hours.

A  graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Medical School, Parazynski’s 17 years as a Shuttle astronaut included leadership of the first joint US-Russian spacewalk during STS-86 while docked to Space Station MIR; serving as John Glenn’s crewmate and “personal physician” during STS-95; and conducting EVA assembly of the Canadian-built Space Station arm during STS-100.  Dr. Parazynski currently serves as Director and Chief Medical Officer for The University of Texas Medical Branch’s Center for Polar Medical Operations in Galveston. He is also Chairman of the Board of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. He is a frequent speaker for keynotes and lectures all over the world to audiences of all ages.

 Attendance at the Oct. 2 program is free but tickets are required from the MSC Box Office.  For questions, send email to aaevents@tamu.edu, or call (979)845-6366.   View the evite for this program at http://bit.ly/1lI1RI5.

Learn more about Dr. Parazynski at his website http://www.parazynski.com  and more about the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation at http://www.astronautscholarship.org.

Amélie Berger to Receive $10K Astronaut Scholarship

2014 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Recipient, Amélie Berger '15
2014 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Recipient, Amélie Berger ’15

Excerpted from Geosciences News:

Amélie Berger, junior environmental geosciences student from Paris, France, is one of 30 students nationwide to be awarded a prestigious scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. This is the second year in a row that a student in the College of Geosciences has received the award.

Berger will receive a $10,000 scholarship in recognition of “her unique aptitude for research and ingenuity in science and technology,” according to the award letter.

Read the full story at http://geonews.tamu.edu/latestnews/981-geosciences-student-wins-astronaut-scholarship-for-second-year-in-a-row.html

Amélie Berger, ’15, was selected for nomination based on her strong scholarship in and out of the classroom. Berger has conducted research on South Pacific Deep Water circulation with Dr. Debbie Thomas in oceanography, as well as on land-atmosphere heat exchange in the Arctic and rainfall in Costa Rican cloud forests with Dr. Frauenfeld in geosciences. Berger has presented on her research at the Association of American Geographers meeting, the American Geophysical Union meeting, and will have a paper published in Biotropica on November 14.

Berger has previously been recognized as the 2014 Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Junior, with the Team Diversity Award, and the Thomas S. Gathright Scholar Award. In addition to serving as a peer mentor and recruiter for the College of Geosciences, Berger is an active leader in several student organizations. Berger plans to pursue a Ph.D. and work in climate science and sustainability.

The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest monetary award given in the United States to science and engineering undergraduate students based solely on merit. Thirty-two of these prestigious awards were dispersed this year through the ASF to outstanding college students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math. More than $3.7 million has been awarded in scholarships to date. Since 1986, ASF has distributed over $200,000 to Astronaut Scholars at Texas A&M University. These high-achieving students exhibit strong drive and phenomenal performance in their field, as well as intellectual daring and a genuine desire to positively change the world around them, both in and out of the classroom.

Former Astronaut Scott Parazynski, M.D. will present Berger with her award on behalf of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation on Thursday, October 2, 1:30-2:30 PM. http://bit.ly/1lI1RI5