July 9, 2024

NDSU Student selected for Astronaut Scholarship


NDSU junior Garrett Honzay has been awarded the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship for the 2024-25 academic year. Honzay, who is from Fargo, is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology with a minor in computer science.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for my future,” Honzay said. “I feel supported by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, but the largest impact for me has been a sense of validation and belonging. It really is an honor to receive this award and to be accepted into the community of Astronaut Scholars.”

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation was created to ensure that the United States maintains its leadership in science and technology by supporting some of the best science, technology, engineering and mathematics college students in the nation. The foundation awarded its first seven scholarships in 1986 when each founding Mercury 7 astronaut sponsored a $1,000 scholarship.

The Astronaut Scholarship is offered to junior and senior-year college students pursuing degrees in STEM. The process begins with nominations from professors at an ASF-partnering university. Upon selection, each student receives a scholarship of up to $15,000. Other benefits include: networking and mentoring opportunities with astronauts, alumni and industry leaders; participation in the Michael Collins Family Professional Development Program; a paid trip to attend ASF’s Innovators Symposium and Gala, featuring the Neil Armstrong™ Award of Excellence. The latter event also includes a technical conference where Astronaut Scholars present their research.  

A total of 71 students from 48 different universities across the United States received awards this year.

“As a freshman, Garrett enthusiastically looked for research opportunities,” said Gudrun Lukat-Rodgers, research professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at NDSU. “Since then, his curiosity and dedication have made him a productive undergraduate researcher with excellent laboratory and data analysis skills. I was happy to nominate Garrett for the Astronaut Scholarship, as it will provide him the opportunity to concentrate on his research to develop and hone the skills required for making significant scientific contributions.”

Honzay has been investigating the enzymes that catalyze the final two steps in heme biosynthesis unique to Gram-positive bacteria. His studies evaluate how these enzymes interact with their substrates, products, and one another. As heme b is essential to bacterial growth, these enzymes could represent targets for new and novel therapeutic strategies against bacterial pathogens, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

When asked about his experience in the lab, Honzay says, “that was probably the most valuable decision I have ever made for my education. In the lab, I have learned experimental techniques, how to interpret results and the intricate details of the heme b biosynthesis pathway in Gram-positive bacteria. This new knowledge has been a huge leap in my education, but nothing has compared to the sense of familiarity with science, problem-solving and critical thinking that I have gained from research in Rodgers’ Lab.”

Honzay plans to pursue a doctorate in biochemistry. He would like to study protein design or biomacromolecular manufacturing and possibly a bit of genetic engineering.

“In every class I have taken, the professors have been welcoming and supportive. They really want to help every student who wants to learn,” said Honzay. “Since NDSU is a research university, most professors are experts in their field and the classes are small enough to ask them questions and get their attention. The diversity of students, research, knowledge, clubs, activities and sports here has created a remarkable environment for learning about the world. I’m confident that the opportunities at NDSU made me competitive for the Astronaut Scholarship.”

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