Melissa Mai

Astronaut Scholarship, 2018–2019

The Astronaut Scholarship is more than just a monetary award; it’s an invitation into a lifelong network of passionate innovators and scientific leaders. I wasn’t expecting such an emphasis on the scholar community until the annual conference in DC, where I met the other scholars in my class and formally received the award. Alumni scholars from the 1980’s to now came from all over the country to celebrate the weekend as a family. During the Technical Conference that weekend, every incoming scholar presented his or her research, and it was refreshing to discuss science and exchange ideas across disciplines, especially since it is so easy to become insulated within your field at school. To top it all off, I got to meet some real astronauts (in the picture I’m shaking hands with six-time astronaut Curt Brown)!!! However, the sense of community didn’t end when the weekend was over; the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has a unique mentoring program that pairs recent scholars with alumni for vocational and personal guidance. My mentor works in optics and lasers, and while this is very different from my course of study in biophysics, we have had many excited conversations about science, and he has helped guide me through the graduate school application process. I am incredibly grateful to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation for supporting me in my academic and vocational endeavors and for inspiring me through the character and quality of my fellow scholars.