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NDSU student receives Astronaut Scholarship

Posted on 5/7/2013

NDSU senior Brandon Johnson has been selected to receive the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship. Johnson, who is majoring in physics, mathematics and music, is one of a select group of students from across the country to receive the $10,000 scholarship for the 2013-14 academic year.

Established in 1986 by the Mercury 7 astronauts, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation was created to ensure the United States would maintain its leadership in science and technology by supporting some of the very best science and engineering college students. Nominees must be studying engineering, natural or applied science or mathematics and have intentions to pursue research or advance their field upon completion of their final degrees.

Johnson, a native of Hazen, N.D., said he aspires to be a research leader in astronomy and cosmology. He also wants to be an excellent teacher, noting he was a learning assistant for the past academic year in the calculus-based University Physics I and II courses.

"I am so excited to be honored with this scholarship," Johnson said. "To be recognized for my hard work as an undergrad student means the world to me. I look forward to continuing my education toward my long-term goal of becoming a research professor."

Alan Denton, associate professor of physics, nominated Johnson for the scholarship. "Compared with numerous students with whom I have interacted during the past 30 years at several universities, Brandon Johnson stands out among the top 5 percent who exceed the criteria of critical reasoning and problem-solving ability, communication skills and personal qualities to do big things," Denton wrote.

Thomas Ihle, associate professor of physics, wrote a letter of recommendation for Johnson. Ihle wrote that he excelled in his Modern Physics class, which is a challenging introduction to quantum mechanics and Einstein's Theory of Special and General Relativity. In addition, in Ihle's Heat and Thermodynamics course, Johnson received the only "A" of the eight undergraduate and four graduate students taking the class.

"Brandon is a top student," Ihle wrote. "He is in the same league as the best four physics students I have taught at NDSU since 2004 and who are now pursuing graduate studies at top tier universities like Cornell and Carnegie-Mellon. I think Brandon is a perfect candidate for the Astronaut Scholarship."

NDSU is one of 27 cooperating educational institutions in the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation program.

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation's top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.

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