May 31, 2022

Student receives Astronaut Scholarship


NDSU senior Max Salzer has been awarded the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship for the 2022-2023 academic year. Salzer, who is from Barnum, Minnesota, is majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in robotics.

“It is an honor to receive such a prestigious scholarship,” Salzer said. “I am excited to represent NDSU as I meet my fellow scholars who include the best and brightest of the next generation. With their help, I look forward to shaping a better tomorrow.”

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.

The foundation awarded its first seven scholarships in 1986 when each founding Mercury 7 astronaut sponsored a $1,000 scholarship. The foundation now awards more than 60 scholarships valued up to $15,000 to each selected scholar.

“This scholarship is an important national recognition of Max’s academic achievements and the quality of his education at NDSU. We are proud of his accomplishments and delighted that he has received this noteworthy acknowledgement of his talents,” said Provost Margaret Fitzgerald.

“Max was selected to the elite group of students from over 40 schools, including the University California, Berkeley; University of Texas at Austin; and North Carolina State University. He will travel to Orlando, Florida, in August to receive his award,” said Keerthi Nawarathna, faculty fellow in the Office of the Provost and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Internal selection at NDSU was very tough this year as NDSU received nominations from a large group of talented students. NDSU carefully reviewed the nominations and selected two students to apply.”

During the past three years, Salzer has contributed to five research projects. Initially, he assisted with extracting oil from distiller’s dried grains with solubles. He later worked with projects involving manufacturing flax straw composites and producing ethanol from pelleted corn stover.

“Through all my research and extracurricular experiences at NDSU, I have developed the ability to lead large-scale projects, think systemically, and design technologies that improve the lives of others. These abilities open many fields of engineering for me,” Salzer said, noting he presented at local and national conference and submitted papers to two academic journals.

He now plans to change his research focus to the robotics field.

“I plan to integrate robotics technologies into the medical field that facilitate surgical procedures, patient care and medicine distribution,” said Salzer, who will have a summer internship developing robots to assist electrophysiology procedures. “This shift has sprouted from my enjoyment in classes such as robotics, circuit design and machine design, and my desire to improve the lives of others.”

Salzer’s research advisors were Nurun Nahar, former assistant professor of practice in agricultural and biosystems engineering, and Dilpreet Bajwa, former NDSU faculty who is now the mechanical and industrial engineering department head at Montana State University-Bozeman.

In total, more than 600 students have received Astronaut Scholarships through the years, with more than $7 million being awarded.

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