Andy Hyland
Office of Public Affairs

Two students earn Astronaut scholarships

Mon, 06/19/2017

LAWRENCE — The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has selected two students at the University of Kansas to join an elite group of Astronaut Scholars for the 2017-18 academic year.

Eilish Gibson, a senior from Perry majoring in physics and classical antiquities, and Marilyn Barragan, a senior from Olathe majoring in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, will each receive the awards. The scholarships promote U.S. leadership in science and technology by supporting students with the potential to become future leaders.

 “These scholarships recognize students with a track record of undergraduate research accomplishments that demonstrate the potential to be future leaders in science and technology,” said Steve Hawley, a KU professor of physics and astronomy and a former NASA astronaut who serves as the chairman of the campus committee for the scholarships. “Eilish and Marilyn were recognized because of the outstanding potential they have shown in their fields of particle physics and bioengineering.”

Each student will receive up to a $10,000 award and opportunities to participate in professional development events while being mentored by scholar alumni, C-level executives or an astronaut.

Gibson and Barragan also earned Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships earlier this year.

The students will be honored at the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s Innovators Gala on Sept. 14-16 in Washington, D.C. Established by the six surviving members of the Mercury 7 mission, the foundation also includes astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and space shuttle programs.

The two KU recipients are members of the University Honors Program, which coordinated the application process. Brief descriptions of their research experience and career plans follow.

Marilyn Barragan, daughter of Mayte and Irineo Barragan, graduated from Olathe Northwest High School. Barragan is majoring in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. Her research at KU is in the lab of Associate Professor Justin Blumenstiel, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. She previously worked in the lab of Engineering Professor Michael Detamore, now at the University of Oklahoma. In summer 2016 she completed an Amgen Scholars program internship at Stanford University. She has also worked closely with Professor James Orr, Department of Molecular Biosciences, through the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development. Barragan is conducting research at Harvard Medical School this summer as part of the Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program and plans to pursue a doctorate in stem cell and regenerative medicine and a career focusing on biomedical research.  

Eilish Gibson, daughter of John and Kimberly Gibson, graduated from Bishop Seabury Academy. Gibson is double-majoring in physics and classical antiquities. Gibson has been involved in physics research with professors Phil Baringer and Alice Bean, Department of Physics & Astronomy, since she was in junior high school. Her current research is related to the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, where she is spending this summer conducting research. Gibson has been able to travel to CERN and contributed to internal publications there. She plans to pursue a career in particle physics research.  

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