The NDSU Office of the Provost has nominated two outstanding students for the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship for 2014. Nicole Marie Snyder, a junior majoring in zoology and biochemistry and molecular biology, and Zachery Tyler Staskywicz, a junior majoring in chemistry, were selected from among nine NDSU finalists.
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation annually presents $10,000 scholarships to excellent undergraduate students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM. The foundation was created in 1984 by the six surviving members of America’s Mercury 7 astronauts with the intent to aid the nation retain world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships for students who demonstrate motivation, imagination and a high level of performance.
“The committee indeed had a difficult decision to make, given the excellent record of all the nominees. In the end, however, it was our collective sense that Nicole Snyder and Zachery Staskywicz, with their academic and research experience, most closely align with the expectations of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation,” wrote R.S. Krishnan, in the formal nomination of the two students.
Snyder, who is from Dell Rapids, S.D., has been assisting the research of Wendy Reed, associate professor and head of biological sciences. During her three years of research, she has helped rear Franklin’s Gull chicks and administered ad libitum feeding. In addition, she independently developed a single-cell gel electrophoresis assay for the lab to measure the amount of DNA damage present in cells. She also worked with graduate students on a USDA project to evaluate red-winged blackbird behavior.
“I strive to do well in my field, am highly motivated and am committed to success in a future career in avian science,” wrote Snyder in her nomination materials.
In a letter of support, Reed praised Snyder’s work ethic, enthusiasm and aptitude. “Nicole is a very driven individual and I would rank her in the top 1 percent of the students I have seen as undergraduate students in our department. Nicole will be successful; she would not be satisfied with anything less,” Reed wrote.
Staskywicz, who is a native of Burlington, N.D., is working on purifying proteins and learning protein crystallization in the laboratory of Christopher Colbert, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. His aim is to pursue a combined Doctor of Medicine and doctoral degree so he can satisfy his interests in both conducting research and treating patients.
“The end goal of my education is to help the community as much as I can,” Staskywicz wrote. “I think I can accomplish this best by becoming an expert in the field that interest me most, medicine. This way, I am satisfying my own personal interests while furthering the betterment of the community at the best of my abilities.”
Colbert, in a letter of support for Staskywicz, wrote, “He is one of the hardest working students I have ever had in my laboratory and is in the top 5 percent of the students I have trained. His interactions with the graduate students in my group have earned him high praise. He is known for his intellectual curiosity.”
Since the Astronaut Scholarship program began, more than $3.5 million in scholarships have been awarded to more than 300 students across the nation. The recipients of the scholarship will be announced later this spring.
NDSU is recognized as one of the nation’s top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.