Two University Of Colorado Undergrads Receive Prestigious Astronaut Scholarship

A select group of 40 undergraduate students who are soon to be Astronaut Scholars, a merit scholarship awarded by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF). Image Credit: ASF

A select group of 40 undergraduate students who are soon to be Astronaut Scholars, a merit scholarship awarded by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF). Image Credit: ASF

September 30, 2016 – Two University of Colorado Boulder students have received scholarships from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. The awards will be presented by retired Space Shuttle commander Dan Brandenstein at a ceremony to be held at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 2.

The ceremony is free and open to the public. It will include a presentation by Brandenstein, a NASA astronaut who logged close to 800 hours in space, as well as a dessert reception.

Matthew Hurst, a senior studying aerospace engineering and applied mathematics, and Matthew Winchester, a senior majoring in engineering physics, are among the national recipients for 2016.

Matthew Hurst. Image Credit: CU Boulder

Matthew Hurst. Image Credit: CU Boulder

“Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by space and human space exploration,” Hurst said. “My dream is to one day become an astronaut. So to receive this award from a foundation so closely tied with the human space program is very meaningful to me.”

Hurst is exploring multi-fidelity modeling techniques in aerodynamics. The techniques developed could lead to a reduction in the large amounts of time and costs currently required to design the shape of aircraft wings, he said. Hurst is from Lafayette, Colorado, and he graduated from Centaurus High School in 2013. He plans to use the scholarship to help finance his final year of college.

Matthew Winchester. Image Credit: CU Boulder

Matthew Winchester. Image Credit: CU Boulder

Winchester is working on a superradiant laser experiment at JILA – a joint institute of CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology – that could help lead to significant improvements in the precision of lasers and atomic clocks. He is from Centennial, Colorado, and is a 2013 graduate of Cherry Creek High School. He says the award will allow him to continue focusing on his research at JILA.

The merit-based ASF scholarship, worth $10,000, is the largest known monetary award of its kind given in the United States to science and engineering undergraduate students. The Mercury 7 astronauts, including Boulder native Scott Carpenter, who died in 2013, created the foundation in 1984. The purpose was to aid the United States in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships to the brightest college students pursuing these degrees.

The Mercury 7 astronauts have since been joined by more than 100 astronauts from the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs who use their joint credibility to encourage students to pursue scientific endeavors to keep the U.S. a leader in technology.

More than $4 million has been awarded in ASF scholarships to date, said Nicole Russ, ASF program director. Since 1995 and including this year’s recipients, $200,000 of that amount has been disbursed to CU Boulder undergraduates, according to Deborah Viles, director of CU Boulder’s Top Scholarships office. Although usually ASF only funds one student per institution, since 2015, it has funded two CU Boulder students, she said.

Brandenstein piloted one Space Shuttle mission and commanded three others, including the maiden flight of the Endeavour mission, and later served as chief of the astronaut office. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2003 and serves as the chairman of the ASF.

The presentation will be held at Andrews Hall, 2510 Kittredge Loop Road, Boulder, Colorado.