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Astronaut Joe Allen presents scholarship award to Miami senior


Space Shuttle astronaut Joe Allen (photo courtesy NASA)
Space shuttle astronaut Joe Allen will present Miami University senior Prashant Rajan with a $10,000 scholarship and will also share his space mission experiences at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, in Hall Auditorium.

Allen will present Prashant Rajan with the $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Foundation. Rajan is a senior biochemistry and zoology double major and molecular biology and neuroscience double minor from Mentor.

Allen, originally from Crawfordsville, Ind., earned a bachelor's degree from DePauw University and a master’s degree and doctorate from Yale University. He was a nuclear physics research associate at the University of Washington when NASA selected him as one of 11 scientist-astronauts in 1967.

After serving in several administrative positions with NASA, including four years at headquarters, he returned in 1981 to Johnson Space Center where he helped support the first Space Shuttle flight.

He flew on two Space Shuttle missions, both milestone flights: STS-5, the first operational mission on Columbia in 1982 and STS-51A, the first satellite salvage mission on Discovery in 1982.

Allen left NASA in 1985. He served as chief executive officer of Space Industries International, and later was chairman of Veridian Corp. until he retired in 2004. Allen is an active member of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF).

Rajan, recipient of the 2012-2013 Astronaut Scholarship, “embodies the top characteristics of an Astronaut Scholar: intelligent, perseverant and driven to lead the path toward the advancement of scientific knowledge and technology,” Allen said. “I’m proud to have the opportunity to present this award to such a worthy recipient at Miami University.”

Rajan has conducted independent study research with Blanton Tolbert, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, (now at Case Western Reserve University) for the past three years. (Rajan will be joining a new research laboratory group at Miami this fall). He has collaborated with a senior research associate, graduate and undergraduate students to determine the high-resolution 3D structure of a key RNA molecule from HIV, Tolbert said. This work was recently published in the Journal of Molecular Biology.

Rajan worked this past summer on cloning novel DNA vectors for the purposes of osteosarcoma and musculoskeletal disorder studies at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The previous two summers he conducted clinical research at the Cleveland Clinic, working with children with autism and Tourette syndrome. One of his studies on autism is being considered for publication in the Journal of Child Neurology.

Rajan was also the recipient of a 2012 Goldwater Scholarship.

Allen’s talk, free and open to the public, is sponsored by Miami’s honors program.

Astronaut Scholarship

The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest monetary award given in the United States to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) undergraduate college students based solely on merit. Twenty-two of these prestigious scholarships were dispersed this year by ASF to outstanding college students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math.

Miami is one of 27 schools nationwide eligible to nominate a student for the Astronaut Scholarship.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1984 by the six surviving members of America’s original Mercury astronauts. Today, more than 100 astronauts from the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Space Shuttle and Space Station programs have joined in this educational endeavor.


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