Astronaut Scholarship Foundation

Alan Bean, alumnus and Apollo 12 astronaut, discussed his experience in space while on campus to present a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

Alan Bean, a former Apollo astronaut and UT alumnus, visited campus Tuesday to present a scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and talk about the knowledge he gained from being a NASA astronaut.  

Sai Gourisankar, a Plan II and chemical engineering senior, was selected to receive the $10,000 scholarship. Gourisanker is focusing his collaborative research on nanotechnology for biomedical therapy and imaging used to detect and treat cancer. 

Bean said Gourisankar should be proud of his research and individuality.

“It is amazing what this young man has accomplished,” Bean said. “We need people like you, Sai. We need these people for the future of this country and for the future of human beings on earth.”  

Bean, who flew on the Apollo 12 mission, said he thinks it is important for people to pursue their dreams — despite opposition from others

“One of the things I’ve noticed in my life is it’s hard to hold onto your dream because your parents and other people don’t have the same dream, and they don’t necessarily see your dream as worthy,” Bean said. “You have got to hold on to what feels good to you.” 

According to Bean, the ability to cooperate with others is necessary for someone who wants to be a good team member. 

Beans said during his  training he disagreed with a flight engineer’s approach to delivering information and questioned whether the engineer was a good team member because of it. A fellow astronaut, Charles Conrad, said he was too quick to pass judgement and made Bean realize that he might have been the bad team member for not appreciating everyone’s perspective.    

Bean said if anyone wants to be influential in prompting a positive change, they should push to influence others through respect and good deeds every day. 

“If you want to be a special person, you have to start thinking of ways to be special,” Bean said.  “If we want to be special, we have to be proactive about it. People are waiting around for life to give us an opportunity to be special. … Forget it.”

In closing, Bean said people often fail to recognize their full potential. 

“The only thing in the universe that we know of that’s not limited as to where it’s going to be in the future, are human beings — just like us,” Bean said. “We may be small on a cosmic scale, but we have been given this great gift of unlimited potential.” 

Tammy Knowles, executive director of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, said Bean’s lecture gave her hope for future generations. 

“I’m [now] even more hopeful for America and for the students that we have coming up that are going to find the cures that we need,” Knowles said. “Not only to take us to space and beyond … but also [for] all the other innovations that are going to come out … across the country.” 

Computer science and mathematics third year Ben Braun was awarded a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Braun’s research concentrates on a Nano scale machines with DNA.

Photo Credit: Mary Kang | Daily Texan Staff

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation awarded a $10,000 scholarship to computer science and mathematics major Ben Braun Monday, said computer science professor Calvin Lin, who helped nominate Braun.

Every year, 26 scholarships worth $10,000 each are awarded to students at the educational institutions that are partnered with ASF, said Beth Higdon. a spokesperson for ASF. She said that the foundation, originally known as the Mercury Seven Foundation, is a way to help keep America at the forefront of science and technology.

Higdon said that the scholarship, awarded to juniors and seniors, is given to only one student from each institution. She said university faculty nominate two students from the natural science and engineering fields for the award and the ASF scholarship committee chooses one recipient.

“To be considered for the award, the student must be performing at the top of their class, be a well-rounded student and be actively involved in lab and research work in their field,” Higdon said.

Braun began researching ways to build Nano scale machines with DNA during the spring semester of his freshman year at the University. The research tries to provide a computer-assisted design tool for Nano scale devices made from polymer DNA, he said.

“As a building material, [DNA] is cheap. It’s robust and reliable,” Braun said. “We’ve discovered we can do quite interesting things with DNA.”

Braun said he harbors a deep passion for science and learning new things. He said his love for science was instilled in him as a child by his parents, both of whom are actively involved with research at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

“My father played puzzle games with me since I was young. We played chess a lot and other games that required quite of bit of thinking,” Braun said. “Solving problems always seemed fun to me and science seems like a profession that always lets you solve problems and [gives you] fun puzzles to solve every day and you’re never bored.”

Braun said he knew right away he wanted to be involved with research when he got to the University. He began by working with natural sciences professor Andrew Ellington doing hands-on things but soon switched to computational work, where he contributed much more, Ellington said.

Robert Crippen, former astronaut, UT alumnus and ASF board member presented Braun with the $10,000 scholarship, Lin said.

“[Braun] has had a pretty spectacular academic record in terms of his grades and he’s in the Turing Scholars Program and Dean’s Scholars,” Lin said. “But what really stood out is the impact he’s already had in such a short time.”

Crippen stressed the fact that the award exists to encourage more involvement in research in the sciences, specifically to increase the number of engineers and scientists that this country produces, Braun said.

“I think that such an award, being really large, shows that there’s a strong support for undergraduate research in the United States and in the community,” Braun said.

Printed on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 as: Student wins scholarship with support from faculty