Texas A&M University senior chemistry major Brooke Versaw '18 has been selected to receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF).

Versaw, a College Station native, is set to graduate in spring 2018 with her bachelor's of science degree in chemistry and a minor in business. She is one of two 2017 recipients along with Kendall Ezell '18, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering.

Former Space Shuttle astronaut Fred Gregory will present Versaw and Ezell with their Astronaut Scholar awards Thursday (Oct. 26) as part of an 10-11:30 a.m. ceremony in the Rudder Theatre Complex 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 Gregory. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for entry and are available through the Memorial Student Center Box Office.

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.

Versaw, who is the daughter of Lori and Wayne Versaw (the latter of whom is a longtime biologist at Texas A&M), discovered her interest in chemistry and chemical research during high school, where she volunteered as a chemistry and physics tutor. Prior to ever setting foot on the Texas A&M campus as an official student and National Merit Scholar in fall 2014, she had already spent two summers conducting university-level research. In summer 2013, Versaw worked with Dr. Junha Jeon at the University of Texas at Arlington, investigating the mechanism of alkenyl silyl ether hydrolyzation as a Robert A. Welch Foundation Chemistry Scholar. In summer 2014, Versaw moved to Dr. Steve Lockless' group in the Texas A&M Department of Biology, where she studied intracellular signaling using synthetic models of cellular membranes.

Since June 2015, Versaw has conducted undergraduate research in the laboratory of Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Dr. Karen L. Wooley, a group she intially joined as a 2015-16 Beckman Scholar. Her related research on polymers and functional macromolecules has resulted in several presentations, including a first-place undergraduate oral presentation award as part of 2016 Texas A&M Student Research Week and an Outstanding Presentation Award in Materials Science at the 2016 Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research (GCUR) Symposium. In addition, she was a co-inventor on a patent application. Most recently this past spring, Versaw earned Barry Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention honors.

"Among the 55 undergraduate students who have engaged in research in my laboratory over the past 23 years, Brooke has exhibited the highest level of independent creativity, and she has the greatest potential to rise as a world-class star in pursuit of excellence in the design and development of advanced organic polymer materials," Wooley said.

In addition to the University Honors Program, Versaw has served in leadership roles with the American Chemical Society and Aggie Honor Council and has been active as a member of the MSC Visual Arts Committee and as a National Scholar Ambassador. In addition to Beckman Scholar, she was selected as a University Scholar, a President's Endowed Scholar, an Undergraduate Research Ambassador and as a Robert A. Welch Foundation Scholar.

Versaw, who is proficient in Spanish, plans to pursue her Ph.D. in chemistry and a career as a polymer chemist at a Tier-1 research institution, where she can make an impact in the field of polymer chemistry and materials synthesis and also help cultivate future generations of scientists.

"While my research experience has undoubtedly informed and inspired my desire for a career in scientific research, it has also made me an enthusiastic advocate for science outreach," Versaw said. "As an Undergraduate Research Ambassador for Texas A&M University, a volunteer for the annual Chemistry Open House and a workshop leader for Expanding Your Horizons, a STEM initiative for 6th grade girls, I discovered that I enjoy both conducting research and communicating its findings. Moreover, I enjoy serving as a role model and a source of encouragement for younger students."

Since the Astronaut Scholarship's inception in 1986, Texas A&M has had 27 honorees, including eight from the College of Science: Versaw (2017); Kristin Maulding and Will Linz (2015); David Rahmani (physics, 2009); Susan Koons (applied mathematical science/psychology, 2008); Justin Wilson (mathematics/physics, 2005 and 2006); Benjamin Aurispa (mathematics, 2004); and 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 400 of the nation's top scholars as well as technological innovations across the healthcare, energy, defense, aerospace and homeland security sectors.

To learn more about Gregory and Thursday's event, see the feature story in Texas A&M Today.

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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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

  • Brooke Versaw '18

    (Credit: Megan Whitlock '18.)

  • Since June 2015, Versaw has conducted undergraduate research in the laboratory of Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Dr. Karen L. Wooley, a group she intially joined as a 2015-16 Beckman Scholar.

  • (Credt: Texas A&M Honors and Undergraduate Research.)

  • 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 27 students from Texas A&M University. (Credit: Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.)

© Texas A&M University. To request use of any of our photographs for educational use or to view additional options from our archive, please contact the College of Science Communications Office.

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