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USRA Announces 2020 Distinguished Undergraduate Award Winners

Columbia, MD -- December 10, 2020.  Universities Space Research Association proudly announced today 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.

Zoe de Beurs, 2020 Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship awardee
Wilbert Ruperto-Hernandez, 2020 John R. Sevier Memorial Scholarship awardee
Andrea de Fonseca, 2020 Frederick A. Tarantino Scholarship awardee
Maryam Hussaini, 2020 James B Willett Education Memorial Scholarship awardee
2020 USRA Distinguished Undergraduate Award winners (left to right): Zoe de Beurs, 2020 Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship winner, Wilbert Ruperto-Hernandez, 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 & Astronomy—Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship Award

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

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

Wilbert Ruperto-Hernández, University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez, Mechanical Engineering—John R. Servier 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

Lorin Nugent, Purdue University, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

Michael O’Neill, Georgia Institute of Technology, Materials Science & Engineering

Emma Rogers, Purdue University, Geology & 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 to 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.

In 2020, USRA received 126 eligible applications from 61 different universities (including 39 member universities) and nearly 23 percent of the applicants were from underrepresented communities.

From this pool of applicants, the four review committees--two for science applicants and two for engineering applicants--reviewed the students’ dossiers and recommended the finalists. And from the total number of 15 finalists, the winners of the award were selected. The USRA President and CEO made the final decision.


About USRA Universities Space Research Association is an independent, nonprofit research corporation where the combined efforts of in-house talent and university-based expertise merge to advance space science and technology. USRA works across disciplines including biomedicine, planetary science, astrophysics, and engineering and integrates those competencies into applications ranging from fundamental research to facility management and operations. USRA engages the creativity and authoritative expertise of the research community to develop and deliver sophisticated, forward-looking solutions to Federal agencies and other government sponsors.