USRA Announces 2020 Distinguished Undergraduate Award Winners

The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is proud to announce the winners of the prestigious 2020 USRA Distinguished Undergraduate Awards.

In keeping with its goal to recognize and develop promising future scientists in space-related disciplines, USRA bestows these awards to honor outstanding undergraduate students in a variety of majors through a competitive process. These awards are granted to students who tackle challenging problems in space research and exploration, demonstrate leadership, and are poised to make significant contributions to their fields.

The 2020 USRA Distinguished Undergraduate Award winners

The 2020 USRA Distinguished Undergraduate Award winners (left to right):  Zoe de Beurs, 2020 Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship winner; Wilbert Ruperto-Hernández, 2020 John R. Sevier Memorial Scholarship winner; Andrea de Fonseca, 2020 Frederick A. Tarantino Scholarship winner; Maryam Hussaini, 2020 James B. Willet Education Memorial Scholarship winner.

The following students were the winners of the USRA 2020 Distinguished Undergraduate Awards:

Zoe de Beurs, University of Texas at Austin, Physics and Astronomy
Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship Award

Wilbert Ruperto-Hernández, University of Puerto Rico — Mayagüez, Mechanical Engineering
John R. Sevier Memorial Scholarship Award

Andrea de Fonseca, Illinois Institute of Technology, Aerospace Engineering
Fredrick A. Tarantino Memorial Scholarship Award

Maryam Hussaini, University of Texas at Austin, Astronomy and Physics
James B. Willett Memorial Scholarship Award

“The 2020 Distinguished Undergraduate Award Winners represent the very best of tomorrow’s space scientists and engineers,” says Dr. Jeffrey A. Isaacson, President and CEO, Universities Space Research Association. “Despite the COVID-19 challenges, they pressed on with their coursework and individual research, and this award is a testament to their achievements thus far and their potential for future success. In time, I am confident these students will be making new discoveries and tackling our most challenging problems in space-related science and technology.”

Finalists who were not selected as winners received Honorable Mention:

  • Tanisha Bowman, Texas State University, Computer Science
  • Delondrae Carter, Arizona State University, Astrophysics
  • Joheen Chakraborty, Columbia University, Astrophysics and Computer Science
  • Asher Hancock, University of Pittsburgh, Mechanical Engineering
  • Alina Kochocki, University of California, Los Angeles, Physics
  • Megan Li, University of California, San Diego, Physics with Astrophysics Specialization
  • Dillan McDonald, University of Texas at Austin, Aerospace Engineering
  • Lorin Nugent, Purdue University, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering
  • Michael O’Neill, Georgia Institute of Technology, Materials Science and Engineering
  • Emma Rogers, Purdue University, Geology and Geophysics/Planetary Science
  • Ryan Udell, Rice University, Mechanical Engineering

Established to honor the service and memory of individuals who made significant contributions to their fields and USRA, these awards are made possible by financial contributions, including those made by USRA employees.

Faculty from USRA Member Universities review the applications for the awards. Through a rigorous process, they evaluate the students based on stated career goals and accomplishments, leadership qualities, outreach to their communities, and strengths such as initiative, creativity, and perseverance. Recommendation letters from their professors and intern advisors also play an important role in the review.

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