Texas A&M University senior Johnathan Lo ’21 has been selected to receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF).
The 2020 Astronaut Scholars class includes 56 students from 41 different partnering universities across the nation. Lo is one of two honorees from Texas A&M along with fellow senior Cody Martin ’21. 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.
Lo, who was born in Austin and grew up in East Brunswick, NJ, is pursuing dual bachelor’s degrees in molecular and cell biology and statistics. Martin, a native of Red Oak, Texas, also is double majoring in biochemistry and genetics with additional double minors in bioinformatics and statistics. Both are on track to graduate in May 2021.
Texas A&M Astronaut Scholars typically are presented with their awards as part of a fall campus ceremony featuring former astronauts and co-sponsored by Texas A&M LAUNCH along with the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. In addition to a scholarship and membership in the Astronaut Scholar Honor Society, award winners are given the opportunity to present at the Scholar Technical Conference, attend the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s Innovators Weekend and engage in lifelong professional development and mentoring programs with astronauts and Astronaut Scholar alumni.
Earlier this year, Lo also was recognized as a 2020 Goldwater Scholar, Texas A&M’s 50th overall recipient and the 17th from the College of Science of one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for undergraduates who show extraordinary potential for STEM-related research careers. Since 2018, he has conducted undergraduate research as a member of Texas A&M biologist Heath Blackmon’s laboratory, where he investigates topics in quantitative genetics and evolutionary biology. Lo’s primary interests are creating computationally efficient bioinformatics software and applications of survival analysis and game theory to more effectively acquire data and accurately describe cooperative behavior mathematically. Thus far, his research has resulted in two publications, including one in which he is a featured first author, as well as four additional publications in progress, two of which also will list Lo as first author.
“John works in my lab with three graduate students, a postdoc and a research scientist; however, he sets an example for all of us with his hard work, self-motivation and generosity,” Blackmon said. “John is always willing to jump into a project and lend his expertise. As a result of his work ethic, he already has two peer-reviewed publications and will have more before moving on to graduate school. John is quite simply one of the most exceptional students and researchers with whom I have had the privilege to work.
“One of John’s most important characteristics is that he is curious about everything. No matter what paper or project we are discussing in a lab meeting, he puts 100 percent of his attention and intellect into understanding it and discussing it.”
In addition to the Blackmon lab, Lo is a member of the Biology Honors Program, the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, the TAMU Zoological Society and the Statistics Undergraduate Student Association (SUSA). Outside of research, he is an accomplished violinist, avid sportsman and amateur competitive programmer. After graduating from Texas A&M, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematical and theoretical biology.
For more than 35 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 33 honorees, including 11 from the College of Science: Lo (2020); Oscar Gonzalez (chemistry, 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).
“Over this last year, I’ve been fortunate to watch John receive both the Barry Goldwater and Astronaut scholarships,” Blackmon said. “I have no doubt that as John proceeds in his career as a researcher, he will set an example for future recipients of these rewards. I know that I personally look forward to watching him succeed and apply his prodigious talent and energy to exciting new problems.”
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 $5 million in scholarships to more than 500 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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