USC Engineering Student Lands Scholarship By Former Astronaut
USC student Nishita Deka received $10,000 Thursday from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
Apollo 7 astronaut Walt Cunningham bestowed the check and shared his experiences as a pilot on the first manned attempt to land on the moon.
Deka, 21, is an electrical engineer major at the Viterbi School of Engineering. The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest monetary award given in the nation to undergraduate students studying science, technology, engineering and math and is solely based on merit. It was established by the Mercury Seven Foundation, formed in 1984 by the original class of American astronauts. Students must be nominated by a faculty member for consideration.
“The award is kind of a reminder that there are many sources of support for students in science and engineering, that people are rewarded for being in this field," Deka said, "and basically encourages me to continue pursuing a research career in engineering."
According to a university press release, Deka is interested in nanotechnology and is currently investigating an alternative, more efficient method for fabricating ultra-low threshold microlaser devices that are co-doped with two rare materials, Erbium and Ytterbium.
“Nishita has demonstrated quality leadership in electrical engineering at University of Southern California,” Cunningham said in a statement. “She embodies the top characteristics of an Astronaut Scholar: intelligent, perseverant and driven to lead the path toward the advancement of scientific knowledge and technology. I’m proud to have the opportunity to present this award to such a worthy recipient at USC."
Cunningham, a U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame inductee, followed the award presentation with a lecture about his astronautical experiences and life lessons.
“Come up with your own conclusions and analyze data yourself,” Cunningham said during the presentation. “I don’t believe there are enough skeptics in the world.”
SLIDESHOW: Walt Cunningham presents USC student Nishita Deka with the Astronaut Scholarship.