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Four KU students to compete for Astronaut Scholarships

Wed, 05/20/2020

LAWRENCE — Four academically talented University of Kansas students will be competing for scholarships from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

The foundation’s Astronaut Scholarship was founded in 1984 by the six surviving members of the Mercury 7 mission as a means to encourage students to pursue scientific endeavors. Astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs have joined the foundation, which has awarded more than $4 million to more than 400 of the nation’s top scholars.

The scholarship provides up to $10,000 during a student’s junior or senior year for “outstanding students who exhibit motivation, imagination and exceptional performance in the fields of engineering, mathematics and natural or applied sciences.” Award winners are typically notified in June.

KU’s nominees:

  • Myra Dotzel, a junior majoring in computer science and mathematics and minoring in visual arts
  • Nicole D’Souza, a junior majoring in chemical engineering
  • Angelica Lang, a junior studying molecular, cellular & developmental biology with a minor in psychology
  • Jonah Stiel, a junior studying chemistry

Myra Dotzel, from Chesterfield, Missouri, is the daughter of Ronald Dotzel and Qiang Dotzel and a graduate of Parkway Central High School. Dotzel is double majoring in computer science and mathematics with a minor in visual arts. She conducts research in the lab of Suzanne Shontz, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, developing a framework for high-order meshing to be used in improving methods of imaging the human heart. She is a member of the University Honors Program. She has presented research at several conferences, including the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics’ Conference on Computational Science and Engineering 2019 and the 28th International Meshing Roundtable, a premier conference on mesh generation.

Nicole D’Souza, from Overland Park, is the daughter of Walter and Anita D’Souza and a graduate of Blue Valley West High School. D’Souza is majoring in chemical engineering. She has been involved with research in the lab of Mei He, assistant professor of chemical engineering and chemistry, since her sophomore year. Her research focuses on the isolation and modification of exosomes, with the goal of developing a method to silence genes which cause cancer. A member of the University Honors Program, she has presented her research at the Undergraduate Day at the Capitol, the Kansas Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) and at the national conference of the Biomedical Engineering Society.

Angelica Lang, from Manhattan, is the daughter of Dennis and Elaine Lang and a graduate of Manhattan High School. Lang is majoring in molecular, cellular & developmental biology and minoring in psychology. In 2019 she was selected for the Beckman Scholars Program, a 15-month program designed to enrich the development of young scientists. Lang started conducting research at Kansas State University when she was still in high school. Since her freshman year at KU, she has been conducting research in the lab of Erik Lundquist, professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences, studying a novel role for the basement membrane in neuronal migration. A member of the University Honors Program, Lang also completed a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Idaho.

Jonah Stiel, from Topeka, is the son of Debbie Stiel and Steve Stiel and a graduate of Washburn Rural High School. Stiel is majoring in chemistry. In 2019 he was selected for the Beckman Scholars Program, a 15-month program designed to enrich the development of young scientists. He began conducting research in the lab of James Blakemore, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, while still in high school. His research focuses on environmentally beneficial catalysis. He is slated to present his research this spring at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia. He is a member of the University Honors Program and serves as a research ambassador for the Undergraduate Research Center at KU.



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