Florida Tech seniors Brian Murphy and Brooke Hursh have been named 2021 Astronaut Scholars, the prestigious recognition from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation that signifies they are among the best and brightest STEM students in the country.
This year ASF awarded 60 scholarships to students from 44 different U.S. universities. Astronaut Scholarships are awarded to students in their junior or senior year of college who are studying science, technology, engineering, or mathematics with the intent to pursue research or advance their field upon completion of their final degree.
“Our 2021 Astronaut Scholarship award program reflects our commitment to the best and brightest minds in the fields of STEM,” said Caroline Schumacher, ASF president and CEO. “The challenges of the past year were met head-on and managed with great success. We are so honored to support, fuel and inspire all of our 2021 Astronaut Scholars in the process of leadership in science and technology.”
For planetary science major Murphy, the scholarship will help empower his career goal of becoming an astronaut.
“Winning the Astronaut Scholarship provides me with the additional resources I need to make my dream of becoming an astronaut a reality. I know that the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation selects only 50 to 60 students a year nationwide to receive this honor, and that is what makes this so real to me,” he said. “The fact that I was selected out of such a large pool of qualified individuals tells me that I am doing something right on my path to orbit, and it gives me the conviction to see it through.”
Similarly, Hursh, who is majoring in astronomy and astrophysics, said she is motivated by the honor of winning the scholarship.
“I have always been passionate about space exploration and research, and to be recognized by an organization that shares my love and dedication brings me enormous gratification and even relief,” she said. “I may be almost done with my bachelor’s degree, but this is only the beginning of my academic journey. I have so much left to do that to know what I have done is worth recognition by such an incredible foundation brings me comfort that I am on the right path and excitement to see what the future holds.”
Both students are active across campus and beyond.
“Brian has a strong record of achievements as a leader and mentor at Florida Tech,” Lisa Perdigao, a professor and Honors College assistant vice president, said in a letter of recommendation, noting that he is vice president of the Astrobiological Research and Education Society (ARES), a Student Honors Council member, and a Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society member. Off campus, he is an intern at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where he models Titan’s atmosphere using Cassini data in collaboration with Conor Nixon and Gordon Bjoraker.
“His vision, commitment and creativity are actively shaping the communities that he is involved in,” Perdigao concluded.
Hursh, who is involved in groups including Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, Student Astronomical Society, the Student Physics Society and Phi Kappa Phi, was recognized for her excellence by a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. That’s where, as a summer intern in 2019 and 2020, she worked on the OSIRIS-Rex asteroid sample return mission.
“At NASA Goddard we reserve work on spaceflight missions for only the best students available, and Brooke was certainly one of those,” her supervisor, Brent Bos, said in a letter of recommendation. “Although in the past we have only taken on student interns who were upperclassmen or graduate students, we decided to take a chance on Brooke due to her grades and high school work. We were not disappointed.”
Both Murphy and Hursh are two-time winners of the Florida Tech Outstanding Student of the Year Award.