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Two KU students earn Astronaut Scholarships

Thu, 06/24/2021

LAWRENCE — Two University of Kansas students entering their final year of undergraduate study have earned scholarships from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

Jonah Stiel, of Topeka, is a chemistry major, and Julian Moreno, of Lawrence, is majoring in aerospace engineering. Each student will receive an award of up to $15,000.

The foundation’s Astronaut Scholarship was founded in 1984 by the six surviving members of the seven astronauts who were part of the Mercury program as a means to encourage students to pursue scientific endeavors. Astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs have also joined the foundation.

This year, the foundation awarded 60 scholarships to students from 44 different universities across the nation.

Students interested in applying for the awards in future years should contact Anne Wallen, program director for the Office of Fellowships.

Jonah StielStiel, who also was named as an Astronaut Scholar in 2020 and a Goldwater Scholar this spring, said he was looking forward to in-person events with other scholars this year.

“Last year, all of our events were virtual,” he said. “This year, I’m really excited to get to meet the other scholars in person and get to talk to them about what they do and form some long-lasting connections.”

Stiel serves as a research ambassador with the Center for Undergraduate Research and as the president of the KU Chemistry Club. He began conducting research in the lab of James Blakemore, associate professor of chemistry, while still in high school.

He is the son of Debbie and Steve Stiel and a graduate of Washburn Rural High School.

His research focuses on environmentally beneficial catalysis, and he hopes to pursue graduate school and a career in which he can continue to focus on sustainability issues.

Julian MorenoMoreno is the husband of Eriyonna Moreno and the father of Mya Moreno. He is a five-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a graduate of Lee’s Summit Senior High School.

He 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.

Moreno said he intends to go on to graduate school and continue his work on the guidance, navigation, control and dynamics of unmanned aerial systems. He said while the financial award was helpful, he particularly looked forward to the networking opportunities the scholarship provided, including an upcoming meeting in Florida.

“I’m looking forward to getting involved with the other scholars,” he said. “I’m ready to go down to Orlando to meet everyone and get a chance to talk with them and see what they’ve done.”

Astronaut Scholarships are awarded to students in their junior and senior year of college studying science, technology, engineering or mathematics with the intent to pursue research or advance their field upon completion of their final degree.



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