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Astronaut Scholar Spotlights

Astronaut Scholars are immersed in nearly every frontier of science, engineering, and technology as astronomers, biologists, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, engineers in practically every discipline, inventors, consultants, entrepreneurs who have started technology companies, professors at top institutions, and military officers.

In these positions they have launched payloads into space, studied distant galaxies through the Hubble Space Telescope, worked on the Mars Rover missions, trained astronauts, researched alternative energy devices, investigated integrated circuit manufacturing, developed more efficient equipment for firefighters, produced new ways to cultivate agriculture, developed noise control devices, researched the basis of congenital heart disease, mentored future scientists and engineers, and so much more!

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Inaugural Neil Armstrong Award of Excellence Honoree Announced

Patrick T. Biltgen, Ph.D., was named the first winner of the Neil Armstrong Award of Excellence. The award is named for the pioneering astronaut and recognizes an individual who best exemplifies the personal character and professional achievement of Armstrong and his astronaut colleagues.The award is presented to a former Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) scholar whose research and work has had a positive impact on the industry and who embodies a passion for expanding the boundaries of exploration through science and technology. “Dr. Biltgen represents the best qualities of our Astronaut Scholars, not only achieving professional excellence but for his commitment …

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Scholar Spotlight: Astronaut Scholar Matthew Hurst

Astronaut Scholar Matthew Hurst, class of 2016, was the prototypical youngster who thought engineering was “cool.”  Today, he is one of the “Tomorrow’s Engineering Leaders: The 20 Twenties to watch,” according to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Avionics (AIAA), and Aviation Week magazine. “I’ve always been interested in problem solving, the classic kid interested in engineering,” Hurst said. “In high school and college, I knew I wanted to do engineering. I’ve always had a fascination with planes and space. I’ve moved from thinking they were cool as a kid to wanting to understand it as an adult.” The work …

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Astronaut Scholar Karen Feigh (1999, 2000) Awarded Grant

Astronaut Scholar Karen Feigh (1999, 2000) is a professor in the Aerospace Engineering Department at Georgia Tech. She has received a grant from NASA and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute to help answer questions about astronaut health and performance during future long duration missions beyond low Earth orbit. Two CoE Faculty Members Awarded Grants to Support Astronaut Health on Long Duration Space Exploration Missions   NASA’s Human Research Program and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) will fund 27 proposals to help answer questions about astronaut health and performance during future long duration missions beyond low Earth orbit. …

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ASF Scholar – Emily Thompson – Smashing Success

CLEMSON — Emily Thompson’s sensible flats are firmly planted on terra firma. She’ll graduate in May as one of Clemson’s most-decorated physics undergraduates ever, racking up honors from a Goldwater Fellowship to an Astronaut Scholarship and “every award available to her at Clemson,” according to Mark Leising, the interim dean of the new College of Science. But look closer and you’ll see that Emily’s sensibilities are, at times, unconventional. Her personal map is marked by zags where most people would have zigged. She has continually walked out of her relative comfort zone — geographically, socially, academically — and she’s about …

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ASF Scholar Benjamin Cromey Selected to Receive the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Congratulations to 2014 Astronaut Scholar, Benjamin Cromey, for being awarded a recipient of the National Science Federation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program.  Cromey is one of 2,000 award recipients from a pool of 17,000 applications. This award will cover the next three years of graduate study for Benjamin. Learn more about the announcement from NSF.

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2015 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala Scholar Keynote

2011 Astronaut Scholar Zoe Hesp addressed more than 450 guests as the keynote speaker of the 2015 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala, held May 29 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo/Saturn V Center. View Zoe’s speech on YouTube or read her address in full below: My name is Zoe Hesp, and I am a very, very proud alumnus of the Astronaut Scholarship program. I received my award in 2011 while I was an undergraduate at Miami University of Ohio where I studied Zoology & French. Currently, I am working towards my Ph.D. in Neuroscience at The …

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2014 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala Scholar Keynote

During the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala festivities on May 2, 2014, Jarret Lafleur, a 2005-2007 Astronaut Scholar, gave a keynote speech sharing his thoughts and story with the 400 guests in attendance. The following is Jarret’s address, in full: Ladies and Gentlemen, Astronauts, Distinguished Guests, and Space Exploration Enthusiasts: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to join us for dinner beneath this ridiculously large rocket. My name is Jarret Lafleur, and I am proud to say I am an alumnus of the Astronaut Scholarship program that you all have supported just …

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2013 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala Scholar Keynote

Astronaut Scholar Daniel Araya speaks during 2013 AHOF Gala

During the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala festivities on April 19, 2013, Daniel Araya, a 2007-2008 Astronaut Scholar, took the stage to share his thoughts and his story with the more than 450 guests in attendance. The following is Daniel’s address, in full: I feel very privileged to be here tonight. I have such tremendous respect for the collective achievements of the people in this room. So I’m very grateful for this opportunity to share with you my story and hopefully convince you that your money was well spent. I received the Astronaut Scholarship five years ago while …

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Scholar Spotlight: Christine Morrison

Astronaut Scholar Christine Morrison

Astronaut Scholar Christine Morrison received the Astronaut Scholarship award just before her senior year at the University of Michigan. She graduated in May 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with highest honors. After graduating, Morrison was met with almost immediate additional success. First, she published a section of her undergraduate thesis in an academic journal. Then, she embarked on a year-long research program at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. Morrison spent her Fulbright year doing chemistry research full-time. As a result, she went on to write and publish two original academic papers and …

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Scholar Spotlight: Derek Lang

Derek Lang, 1996-1997 Astronaut Scholar, continues to work as a consultant with the Stramler Group.  Lang graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in aerospace engineering. His latest project was helping to build and test the Echostar-16 communications satellite, which will broadcast satellite-to-home programming for DISH Network.  The next step is to take the spacecraft out to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan where it will be launched on a Russian Proton M/Breeze M rocket. Making use of the PhD that ASF supported him through, Derek got his feet wet teaching an undergraduate class on Aerospace Flight Mechanics at …

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Scholar Spotlight: Joy Buolamwini

Astronaut Scholar Joy Buolamwini received the Astronaut Scholarship award while earning her bachelor’s degree in computer science at Georgia Institute of Technology. Since becoming an Astronaut Scholar, she worked with Yahoo, and alongside Google to develop mobile applications to record personal health information and increase responsiveness to warning signs of illnesses. After receiving her first award, Buolamwini became a Carter Center technical consultant to aide in the eradication of trachoma, an infectious disease that leads to blindness and affects 80 million people worldwide. She also represented the United States in a global student innovation competition in Hong Kong, and worked …

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Scholar Spotlight: Ryan East

Astronaut Scholar Ryan East received the Astronaut Scholarship award while earning his bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Oklahoma from 2006-2008. He then went on to earn a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas. Today, East is living his dream working in Mission Control at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX as a Trajectory Analyst for the International Space Station (ISS) and is training to become a Trajectory Operations Officer. His job involves knowing where the ISS is located in orbit, where it will be in future, and defending …

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Scholar Spotlight: Patrick Biltgen

Astronaut Scholar Patrick Biltgen received the Astronaut Scholarship award while earning his bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology from 2001-2003. He continued at Georgia Tech obtaining a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. Today, Biltgen serves as a Senior Architect at BAE Systems in Reston, VA. His work concentrates on developing supreme programs which provide high-tech intelligence support to the US military by interacting with government sponsors and offering advanced IT solutions that address important mission needs. Biltgen’s new approach has been recognized as revolutionary by senior leadership at BAE, and was recently saluted with …

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Scholar Spotlight: Joseph Han

Astronaut Scholar Joseph Han (Texas A&M University 1999-2000) is enabling research in simulation and modeling through high-performance computing (HPC) – combining the power of hundreds, even thousands of regular computers to solve previously intractable problems. At Penguin Computing, Han guides the company into areas where technology and science intersect to provide the greatest impact. This work is a continuation of previous research where Han used Beowulf clusters to perform ab initio quantum chemical simulations of industrial processes such as thermal chlorination for Dow Chemical, heterogeneous catalysis for stereo-specific polymerization, and Atomic Layer Deposition for semiconductor process manufacturing at Intel. Recent …

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Scholar Spotlight: Belinda Shreckengost

Astronaut Scholar Belinda Shreckengost (Harvey Mudd College 1999 – 2000) is putting her love of space exploration to the test in the name of planet Earth. The Harvey Mudd alumnus is working as a Thermal Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and simultaneously pursuing a master’s degree in Astronautics at the University of Southern California. Through her work, Shreckengost hopes to help society gain a better understanding of Earth in order to take care of our environment. Shreckengost recently concluded thermal vacuum testing to qualify hardware for flight on a project called Juno, which will launch in 2011 to study …

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Scholar Spotlight: Joel Odom

Astronaut Scholar Joel Odom (GA Tech 1996 – 1997) is mapping out a successful future in software research. The Georgia Tech alumnus is serving his sixth year as a faculty member at his alma mater and simultaneously pursuing a master’s degree in Information Security. His goal: to create a digital model of the world for the U.S. military to use in defense mission planning. Odom has led several research efforts on FalconView, the computer-based mapping application initially developed by Georgia Tech in 1990 and used today by the U.S. Department of Defense. It analyzes and displays geographical figures which are …

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