2 students chosen for science recognition
Space center director to visit campus for presentation, lecture
Published: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 13, 2013 22:10
Rudder Theatre will host Col. Robert Cabana, Kennedy Space Center director and former space shuttle astronaut, as he presents awards granted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation to two Texas A&M students.
The lecture and scholarship presentation will take place at 10 a.m. on Oct. 28. The event is free of charge and faculty, staff and students are welcome to attend, although tickets will need to be obtained to enter Rudder Theatre.
Cabana will be at A&M to make a public address — focusing on his job as the director of one of NASA’s leading facilities and his experiences as an astronaut — and present the scholarships. In the past, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has sent other high-profile participants in the U.S. space program, such as Capt. James Lovell, one of the astronauts on the Apollo 13 mission, who made the address last year.
“These were the pioneers of their time,” said Sumana Datta, executive director of Honors and Undergraduate Research. “They had rockets explode. They often risked their lives going into space.”
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, established in 1984 by members of the Mercury space program, selects students across the country with exceptional performance in science, technology and engineering fields. The scholarship provides the recipients with $10,000 per year for the remainder of their undergraduate careers, whether one or two years.
“A&M is one of the lucky few institutions able to be granted these awards,” Datta said. “The scholarship is given to those students who have a proven track record of research and creativity.”
The recipients of this year’s awards are Amanda Couch, senior electrical engineering major, and Dillon Amaya, senior meteorology major, who have each amassed expertise in their fields over the course of their undergraduate careers. Couch has conducted research in the field of electromagnetics, space communications and antenna design in addition to interning at the ISS Electrical Power Systems at Boeing.
Amaya’s interest is paleoclimate research, and he has participated in research in multiple aspects of his field. Both have co-authored multiple scholarly publications.
Couch said she is both thrilled to be a recipient and honored to meet Cabana.
“I’m really excited about it,” Couch said. “It’s an honor and I’m glad the foundation has selected me. He’s an astronaut and I get to hear him speak and have lunch with him.”
Couch said she has always had an interest in the field of space communications.
“I’ve always found it fascinating how things work together,” Couch said. “I’ve always been interested in space, that’s how I got involved in space communication, particularly how things communicated wirelessly rather than through a line, like how satellites work.”
Couch said she got involved in undergraduate research because she thought she might want to pursue it as a career. She said that her opportunities in the lab have translated to the classroom.
“I had an idea that I wanted to do research full-time as a career, and I was shown a list of projects and the project that involved antennas sounded the most interesting, so I started working at the antenna lab at A&M,” Couch said. “Research taught me a lot of valuable skills for the work force, it’s improved my presentation ability, and it’s really [helped] round out what I learn in class.”
This year marks the first year the award has not been limited to one student per school.
“We are thrilled that two of our students were selected for this prestigious award this time, when typically it has been one recipient in the year awarded,” Datta said. “This tells us that the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation recognizes the academic strength we have among our students here at Texas A&M.”
Chandra Kovvali, freshman general studies major, said she would be interested in attending the event for the opportunity of listening to Cabana’s experiences in space.
“Cabana had the opportunity to conduct experiments in space,” Kovvali said. “Cabana’s interesting experiences could spark an interest in those who are keen in conducting research.”