For more than 30 years, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has identified and supported the nation's best and brightest undergraduate students pursuing educations in STEM fields, including 23 students from Texas A&M University. (Credit: Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.)


Texas A&M University seniors Kirstin Maulding '16 and Will Linz '16 have been selected to receive $10,000 scholarships from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF).

Maulding, a biology major from Spring Branch, Texas, is set to graduate in spring 2016 with her bachelor's of science degree in molecular and cellular biology as well as double minors in genetics and neuroscience. Linz, who is from Temple, Texas, is majoring in mathematics with a minor in German and also will graduate next May with both his bachelor's and master's of science degrees in mathematics.

Former astronaut and Apollo 16 Moonwalker Charlie Duke will present Maulding and Linz with their Astronaut Scholar awards later this fall as part of a mid-morning October 6 ceremony in Rudder Auditorium on the Texas A&M campus. The program, which is co-sponsored by Texas A&M Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) along with the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, also will feature a public lecture by Duke. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for entry and will be available through the Memorial Student Center Box Office in late August.

For more than 30 years, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has identified and supported the best and brightest undergraduate students pursuing educations in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields across the nation. The Astronaut Scholarship is known for being among the most significant merit-based scholarships awarded to undergraduate STEM students. Candidates must be nominated by faculty of the participating universities based on their display of initiative, creativity and excellence in their chosen field.

Since the scholarship's inception in 1986, Texas A&M has had 23 honorees, including seven from the College of Science: Maulding and Linz (2015); David Rahmani (physics, 2009); Susan Koons (applied mathematical science/psychology, 2008); Justin Wilson (mathematics/physics, 2005 and 2006); Benjamin Aurispa (mathematics, 2004); John Stewart (physics/mathematics, 2001).

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation was established in 1984 by the six surviving Mercury 7 astronauts to aid the United States in retaining world leadership in the development of cutting edge science and technology. Today, more than 100 astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs have joined in the mission, resulting in more than $4 million in scholarships to more than 350 of the nation's top scholars as well as technological innovations across the healthcare, energy, defense, aerospace and homeland security sectors.

For more information on the Astronaut Scholarship and other national and international awards recognizing student academic achievement, please see the National Fellowships section of the HUR website.

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Biographical featurettes on each 2015 Texas A&M recipient appear below, courtesy of Honors and Undergraduate Research:

Kirstin Maulding '16

Maulding is actively involved in both the University Honors and College of Science Honors Programs. She got an early start in biological research during the summer between her junior and senior years in high school, becoming a summer intern with National Academy member Dr. James Hudspeth to study sensory neurobiology. Her fascination with the field led her to persuade Dr. Bruce Riley to let her join his research group the summer before her freshman year at Texas A&M, a decision he categorizes as "one of the best" he has made in the past 20 years.

Maulding's exceptional intellectual abilities, independence and drive led her to take over sole ownership of her research project as an incoming freshman when the graduate student mentor she was working with for the summer pulled back to write and defend his thesis. As a freshman, Maulding's incredible scientific maturity and capability resulted in her being given free rein to design key experiments, execute them on her own and analyze the results. She has presented her award-winning work at Department of Biology poster sessions and Student Research Week. Maulding's work progressed so swiftly and effectively that she had amassed enough data for a first author publication in a peer-reviewed journal by the end of her freshman year, making her a published author as a sophomore.

Maulding's talents are not limited to the bench, as her perfect 4.0 GPR demonstrates. In fact, even among the top students at Texas A&M, she shines. Her rigorous class schedule boasts multiple courses a level or two above that of her classification. Within those classes competing with high-power pre-med students, Maulding easily stands out as the top student, although she is frequently the youngest.

Fueled by her passion for research and its potential to solve problems in society, Maulding hopes to become a mentor and advocate for student involvement in research. To that end, she has submitted an application to become an Undergraduate Research Ambassador in order to share her experiences with others and inspire them to participate in research activities.

Long-term, Maulding wants to study the underlying basis of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, a societal problem that will increase dramatically with the "graying" of American society. She hopes that insights she uncovers in her investigation of nervous system development and function will hold the clues that reveal possible treatments for these intractable diseases.

Will Linz '16

Linz is in both the University Honors and Department of Mathematics Honors programs. He is known for his extraordinary talent for mathematics and his strong desire to communicate the elegance of a mathematical proof as well as the powerful implications of new branches of mathematics to non-mathematicians.

In addition to his heavy course load of undergraduate and graduate courses, Linz has pursued his passion for research, beginning in his freshman year with an aptitude that resulted in his becoming one of the very few sophomore Undergraduate Research Scholars ever in fall 2013. And when theses were evaluated in spring 2014, his was on the short list for best thesis. The research discussed in his thesis, which analyzes ways of calculating how to sort and handle objects arranged in many different ways, has been submitted for publication in a top mathematics journal.

Linz has continued his research on combinatorics, which is the base for theoretical computer science, with Dr. Catherine Yan during the 2014-15 academic year and participated in an REU on chemical graph theory at the University of Texas-Tyler this past summer. He has presented his research at numerous meetings, including the 2015 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Antonio, MathFest in Portland, Oregon and multiple research expos here at Texas A&M, including Student Research Week, where he was awarded first place in the Mathematics and Computer Science oral division.

Linz, who earned 2015 Goldwater Scholar Honorable Mention honors this past spring, also has followed his desire to mentor and communicate about research -- general and mathematical -- since his freshman year. As an incoming freshman, Linz was chosen as the youngest editorial board member in history for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. His incisive comments and astute reviews are greatly respected, and led to his promotion to the executive board in 2013. Linz further honed his skills in communication as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador in 2014, a position that allowed him to receive additional training in presentations and to discuss undergraduate research and his own experiences with mathematics with a variety of audiences.

Linz is acutely aware of how impenetrable cutting-edge mathematics seems to non-mathematicians, even to researchers in other STEM fields who are most likely to appreciate and apply the novel insights he and others are uncovering. He hopes to leverage both his increasing mathematical expertise and his communication skills to "translate" mathematical discoveries to the world of computer science and logic in order to enable faster integration of mathematical insights -- such as breakthroughs in combinatorics -- into technological advances in areas from complex data queries to web-searching algorithms.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Sumana Datta, (979) 845-1957 or sumad@tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Kirstin Maulding '16

    (Credit: Honors and Undergraduate Research.)

  • Will Linz '16

    (Credit: Honors and Undergraduate Research.)

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