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Four juniors nominated for Astronaut Scholarships

Mon, 05/03/2021

LAWRENCE — Four outstanding University of Kansas undergraduates are representing KU in the Astronaut Scholarship program. 

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

With the support of the ASF and the Office of the Provost, up to two KU undergraduate students will be selected to receive a $15,000 scholarship during their junior or senior year. Nominations were sought from faculty members in all STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — for students with exceptional academic records and considerable research experience. A committee coordinated by the Office of Fellowships and chaired by Steven Hawley, KU professor of physics & astronomy and former astronaut, selected the university’s candidates for the award. The winners of the scholarship will be announced later this spring. 

The ASF Board of Directors selected KU to join the program based upon the excellence of the university's STEM academic programs for undergraduates and the strong research capabilities and opportunities for undergraduate students. Admission into the scholarship program is highly competitive, and only the top research universities in the country are chosen to participate. 

The four students:

  • Anton Barybin, a junior majoring in chemistry 
  • Julian Moreno, a junior majoring in aerospace engineering 
  • Jonah Stiel, a junior majoring in chemistry 
  • Erin Sturd, a junior majoring in chemical engineering and minoring in Spanish 

Anton BarybinAnton Barybin, of Lawrence, is majoring in chemistry. He is the son of Misha and Ekaterina Barybin and a graduate of Lawrence Free State High School. In 2020 he was selected for the Beckman Scholars Program, a 15-month program designed to enrich the development of young scientists. He was also awarded a Kansas IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) scholarship. He serves as a research ambassador for the Undergraduate Research Center. Barybin began research in the lab of Susan Lunte, Ralph N. Adams Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, in the summer before his freshman year at KU. Barybin’s research focuses on the design of separation-based sensors for monitoring neurotransmitters. Barybin is co-author on a peer-reviewed publication from Lunte’s lab and has presented his research at a regional meeting of the American Chemical Society and at a K-INBRE Symposium. He also recently presented virtually at the 2021 Pittcon conference. Earlier this spring, Barybin was named a Goldwater Scholar. 

Julian MorenoJulian Moreno, of Lawrence, is majoring in aerospace engineering. A five-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a graduate of Lee’s Summit Senior High School, Moreno is the husband of Eriyonna Moreno and the father of Mya Moreno. Moreno holds a NASA Undergraduate Fellowship through the Kansas Space Grant Consortium and conducts research with the KU Flight Research Lab with Shawn Keshmiri, professor of aerospace engineering. His research focuses on the guidance, navigation, control and dynamics of unmanned aerial systems. While serving in the Marine Corps, Moreno completed the Corporal’s Leadership Course and Small Arms Technician School and studied at Palomar College in San Marcos, California. He received numerous commendations for his service, including the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal. He is a Rising Scholar with the KU Office of Fellowships, works as a physics tutor and has been on the honor roll for the School of Engineering since coming to KU.  

Jonah StielJonah Stiel, of Topeka, is majoring in chemistry. Stiel is the son of Debbie and Steve Stiel and a graduate of Washburn Rural High School. Stiel was selected as an Astronaut Scholar in 2020. In 2019 he was selected for the Beckman Scholars Program, a 15-month program designed to enrich the development of young scientists, and he received an Undergraduate Research Award from the Center for Undergraduate Research at KU. He serves as a research ambassador with the Center for Undergraduate Research and is president of the KU Chemistry Club. Stiel began conducting research in the lab of James Blakemore, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, while still in high school. His research focuses on environmentally beneficial catalysis. Stiel is co-author on a peer-reviewed publication from the Blakemore lab and has presented at regional and national meetings of the American Chemical Society. Earlier this spring, Stiel was named a Goldwater Scholar. 

Erin SturdErin Sturd, of Overland Park, is majoring in chemical engineering with an emphasis in bioengineering and minoring in Spanish. Sturd is the daughter of Deana and Joseph Sturd and a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Sturd works with Mark Shifflet, Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, at the Institute for Sustainable Engineering. In her research, for which she received an Undergraduate Research Award from the Center for Undergraduate Research, she studies polymeric membranes and mixed-matrix membranes for hydrofluorocarbon separation and hydrogen separation for gas recycling. She previously participated in an internship at the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis. This past fall she had two presentations at the American Institute for Chemical Engineering meeting, and she has presented at two KU Undergraduate Research symposia and a showcase. She is a member of the Multicultural Scholars Program, is an Office of Fellowships Rising Scholar and serves as an IHAWKe Ambassador. Sturd is president of the Engineering Student Council and a School of Engineering Self Fellow and a member of the KU Crew. 



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