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Aggies Win Astronaut Scholarhips

Posted on Monday, Feb 01, 2021

Texas A&M University students Johnathan Lo and Cody Martin have been awarded the 2020 Astronaut Scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships that can be awarded to an undergraduate student.

Presented by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF), the scholarship seeks to support the brightest scholars in STEM while commemorating the legacy of America’s pioneering astronauts. The scholarships, valued at $15,000 each, are administered by Texas A&M’s LAUNCH program.

The six surviving Mercury 7 astronauts
established the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation in 1984 to aid the United States in retaining world leadership in the development of cutting-edge science and technology.

“The ASF Scholarship recognizes our most creative and accomplished STEM undergraduate researchers and leaders,” said Sumana Datta, assistant provost for undergraduate studies and the executive director of LAUNCH. “This year the ASF has increased the amount of the scholarship to as much as $15,000 due to the increased economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic and will cover the increased cost for both of our 2020 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Scholars Cody Martin and Johnathan Lo. We greatly appreciate the generosity of the ASF and the donations from the Wreyford Family which will support the talents of a pair of truly exceptional scientists.”

Lo is a junior from East Brunswick, N.J. with a dual major in cell and molecular biology and statistics. He conducts research in quantitative genetics and evolutionary biology. His research has been published in two publications, and he has four additional publications in progress.

Johnathan Lo’s honors include a Goldwater Scholarship, a National Fellowship that recognizes extraordinary accomplishment and potential for a career in STEM research. He is a member of the Biology Honors program, Phi Kappa Phi and the Texas A&M Zoological Society. He is also an accomplished violinist, avid sportsman and amateur competitive programmer.

“This award means that I will be able to pursue excellence in academics and research without too much financial anxiety weighing me down,” Lo said. “Hopefully, membership in the ASF community will also provide me opportunities down the line for furthering my career and intellectual interests. My long-term goals include a Ph.D. in bioinformatics, evolutionary biology, or applied statistics, and eventually an academic research position. I hope to conduct research to quantitatively model cooperative behavior and emergent complexity in biological systems.”

Martin, a junior biochemistry and genetics major from Red Oak, Texas, has been studying how bacteriophages escape from the host cell after infection, a process called lysis.

He was selected to be an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Scholar, one of only two freshmen so designated that year. He also recently was named a Goldwater Scholar. Martin participates in the Biochemistry and Genetics Society and has been a leader in the Freshman Leadership Experience for the past three years. He plans to attend a Ph.D. program and seek a career using bacterial systems as a model for molecular evolution.

“My current goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology with the ultimate goal of establishing my own independent research group dedicated to studying bacterial molecular biology,” Cody Martin said. “Receiving the Astronaut Scholarship gives me the validation that I have the potential to succeed as a scientist and motivates me to continue down this path.“

This year ASF awarded fifty-six scholarships to students from forty-one different universities across the nation. 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 in their field upon completion of their final degree.

Faculty nominate students based on achievements in their chosen fields. Out of a pool of forty-two
universities, ASF typically chooses one recipient from each school. However, Texas A&M undergraduate students have proved to be incredibly strong candidates, and ASF has awarded scholarships to multiple A&M students in the past. Since the scholarship’s inception in 1984, Texas A&M has had thirty-three honorees.