Two Colorado School of Mines students have been named Astronaut Scholars for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Anthony Nagygyor, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, and Connor Bray, a senior studying engineering physics, will each receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, as well as mentorship and professional development opportunities throughout the year.
Created by the Mercury 7 astronauts, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation recognizes science and engineering students nationwide who have shown initiative, creativity and excellence in their chosen field. Mines is one of 40 schools across the country that participates in the Astronaut Scholar program.
Both Nagygyor and Bray were nominated for the honor by their undergraduate research advisors.
Nagygyor works in the research group of Nanette Boyle, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, where they are combining the concepts of synthetic biology, systems biology and metabolic engineering to create photosynthetic organisms capable of producing valuable chemical compounds such as fuel feedstocks or antioxidants.
"I specifically work on the construction of genome-scale metabolic models of organisms of interest. The goal of the models is to create tools that allow rapid learning in regards to what gene knockouts will increase production of the desired product," Nagygyor said. "The beauty of it is the diversity of fields it incorporates, as it is the nexus of chemical engineering, biology and computer science."
Working with Physics Assistant Professor Kyle Leach, Bray's research is related to the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), a new U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory designed to produce the most exotic nuclear systems ever seen.
"So far I have run simulations of the existing detector in order to determine a baseline for performance. Over the summer and into the next semester, I will modify the detector geometry and use the data I collected to determine how the geometry modifications affect the performance of the array," Bray said. "Eventually, we hope to further optimize the detector configuration in order to more effectively observe rare and exotic isotopes."
The 2018-2019 class of Astronaut Scholars will be recognized at the ASF Innovators Gala in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 25.
Joining the students at the gala will be Tracy Copp '99, MS '01 of Ball Aerospace, who donated $5,000 to make a second ASF scholarship available at Mines this year. ASF typically grants one scholarship at each of its 40 partner schools every year but encourages schools to match the gift and support a second student with their own funds.
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