Texas A&M University senior chemistry major Oscar Gonzalez ‘20 has been selected to receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF).
The 2019 Astronaut Scholars class includes 52 students from 38 different partnering universities across the nation. Gonzalez, a San Juan, Texas, native and inaugural member of the College of Science Science Leadership Scholars (SLS) Program, is one of two honorees from Texas A&M along with senior biomedical engineering major Camella Carlson ’20. Both students were selected based on demonstrated initiative, creativity and excellence in undergraduate research and academics in their fields as well as their potential to become leaders in their scientific and professional pursuits.
Gonzalez and Carlson will be presented with their Astronaut Scholar awards at a 10 a.m. October 16 ceremony in the Ford Hall of Champions at Kyle Field on the Texas A&M campus. The program is co-sponsored by Texas A&M LAUNCH along with the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
Gonzalez, who is pursuing double minors in physics and mathematics, was recognized earlier this year as a 2019 Goldwater Scholar after earning Honorable Mention honors as a sophomore in 2018. Since fall 2017, he has conducted undergraduate research as a member of Texas A&M chemist Dr. Sarbajit Banerjee’s laboratory, where he works on two projects aimed at developing materials designed to improve computing efficiency. He has focused on stabilizing metastable polymorphs based on interfacing vanadium and hafnium oxides with a view toward stabilizing negative thermal coefficient materials. During spring 2017 as a freshman, Gonzalez previously worked with former dean of science and physics professor Dr. Meigan Aronson, creating compound samples and analyzing their magnetic properties at low temperatures in her semiconductor-based laboratory. He also has participated in summer research programs at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology in 2018 and the University of California, Berkeley, in 2019.
“Working on these projects has helped me become the scientist I want to become,” Gonzalez said. “In addition, I want to share and use everything I have learned with the rest of the world.”
In that spirit of sharing scientific discovery, Gonzalez works to facilitate research opportunities for his fellow Texas A&M students as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. In addition to a member of SLS, he is a Regents’ Scholar, a member of The Academy of Undergraduate Researchers Across Texas (AURA Texas) and a peer mentor within the Century Scholars Learning Community. After graduation, Gonzalez plans to graduate school, where he will continue to pursue his research interests.
“Oscar is a true scholar and is poised to make important contributions to the physical sciences,” Banerjee said. “He is undoubtedly a remarkable talent, and his trajectory suggests that he will have an exceptional career upon graduation from Texas A&M.”
For more than 30 years, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has identified and supported the best and brightest undergraduate students pursuing educations in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields across the nation. The Astronaut Scholarship is known for being among the most significant merit-based scholarships awarded to undergraduate STEM students. Candidates must be nominated by faculty of the participating universities based on their display of initiative, creativity and excellence in their chosen field.
Since the scholarship’s inception in 1986, Texas A&M has had 31 honorees, including 10 from the College of Science: Gonzalez (2019); Ashley Hayden (biology, 2018); Brooke Versaw (chemistry, 2017); Kristin Maulding and Will Linz (molecular and cell biology and applied mathematics, 2015); David Rahmani (physics, 2009); Susan Koons (applied mathematics/psychology, 2008); Justin Wilson (mathematics/physics, 2005 and 2006); Benjamin Aurispa (mathematics, 2004); and John Stewart (physics/mathematics, 2001).
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation was established in 1984 by the six surviving Mercury 7 astronauts to aid the United States in retaining world leadership in the development of cutting edge science and technology. Today, more than 100 astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs have joined in the mission, resulting in more than $4 million in scholarships to more than 400 of the nation’s top scholars as well as technological innovations across the healthcare, energy, defense, aerospace and homeland security sectors.
For more information on the Astronaut Scholarship and other national and international awards recognizing student academic achievement, please see the National Fellowships section of the LAUNCH website.
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