Universities Space Research Association Announces 2017 Scholarship Award Winners

Press Release From: Universities Space Research Association
Posted: Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Universities Space Research Association (USRA) today announced the winners of the prestigious annual USRA Scholarship Award. USRA awards scholarships to undergraduate students who tackle challenging scientific questions in the areas of space research and exploration, particularly astrophysics and astronomy and create technologies and solutions that positively affect people's lives.

Selected by a panel of judges well recognized in their respective fields, this competition represents the rigor expected of a science competition.  The selection committee consists of university faculty members in science and engineering disciplines from top tier universities.

"We at USRA are extremely proud of students who receive these awards," said Dr. Jeffrey Isaacson, President and Chief Executive Officer, USRA. "They demonstrate great promise in areas such as astrophysics, planetary exploration, data utilization, fluid dynamics and biomechanics.  But it's not just their research that makes them stand out –the award recipients are also selected based on their leadership potential and initiative. We congratulate these talented students and wish them a brilliant future."

The 2017 USRA Scholarship Awards recipients are:

Joseph Breeden, University of Maryland, Double Major: Aerospace Engineering and Applied Mathematics.
Recipient of the John R. Sevier Memorial Scholarship Award

Shannon Gatta, University of Washington, Double Major: Mathematics and Infomatics
Recipient of the Frederick Tarantino Memorial Scholarship Award

Emily Jewell, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Double Major:  Engineering Mechanics and Mathematics.
Recipient of the John R. Sevier Memorial Scholarship Award

Kristine Khieu, University of California San Diego, Major: Bioengineering            
Recipient of the Frederick Tarantino Memorial Scholarship Award

Joanna Rivero, University of Pittsburgh, Major: Mechanical Engineering
Recipient of the John R. Sevier Memorial Scholarship Award

Tyler Valentine, University of Washington, Triple Major: Astronomy, Applied Physics, Earth & Space Sciences
Recipient of the Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship Award

Fast Facts

The USRA Scholarship recipients are from 5 states; two-thirds are women and one-third are men.

The 6 finalists were selected from a pool of 112 entrants from 64 different universities. The selection was based on the originality and creativity of their current work, their career interests, as well as their achievement and leadership both inside and outside the classroom.

The award winners are from University of Maryland, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California - San Diego, University of Pittsburgh and University of Washington.
Their interests range from astrophysics, planetary exploration, data utilization, fluid dynamics and biomechanics.

A total of $24,000 in scholarship money will be awarded. The awards are funded by individual contributions and USRA's matching contributions.

USRA will present the awards to the students at their various institutions.

The scholarship awards were established in memory of :

Thomas R. McGetchin, former director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute for his work in volcanic and igneous processes

James B. Willett, a noted astrophysicist who worked at USRA through the Jet Propulsion Lab and NASA

Frederick Tarantino, USRA President and CEO, 2006-2014, for his dedication to furthering education of young scientists.

John R. Sevier, Acting Director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute and Deputy Director of Space Life Division for his dedication to education and advancements in aerospace technology.

About USRA

Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology and engineering. USRA operates scientific institutes and facilities, and conducts other major research and educational programs, under Federal funding. USRA engages the university community and employs in-house scientific leadership, innovative research and development, and project management expertise. More information about USRA is available at

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