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Once a Mather Scholar, always a Mather Scholar
August 7, 2013

Eager students huddled at the entrance of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s Building 8 and introduced themselves to John Mather, the astrophysicist, cosmologist and physics Nobel Prize winner with a namesake scholarship, before departing on a day of celebration.

The 11 Goddard undergraduate and graduate student interns in the 2013 class of John Mather Nobel Scholarship recipients celebrated at an awards luncheon on July 26 at the Johns Hopkins Club in Baltimore, Md. Following lunch they visited the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., the center that processes Hubble Space Telescope data.

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Each year since its beginning in 2008, the program has provided scholars with allowances that cover the costs of travel presenting research papers at professional conferences. Mather also offers to write letters of recommendation for any award scholar. To be considered for the award, applicants must have high academic achievement and interest in space, while showing promise on Goddard-based assignments.

“[I’m] impressed with the warmth and energy and talent” of this year’s scholars, Mather said. “I am so pleased that we have a way to extend the benefits of the Nobel Prize to the Goddard team, through the scholarship awards to summer interns.”

Jonathan Flugel, a senior computer information systems student at Bernard M. Baruch College in New York, said he is honored to be part of the occasion, and he embraces the experience as confirmation of his hard work.

“I knew that in order to be a Goddard employee I not only needed a college degree but also stellar grades,” Flugel said. “I went on to pursue just that. This award serves as tremendous validation that passion combined with a positive work ethic can yield the realization of a dream.”

From musing about the mysteries of magnetism to thinking about the geometry of the universe, Jessica Avva, a senior physics student studying at the University of Chicago said she feels enthused by the experience.

“I appreciate Dr. Mather taking the time out of his day to spend the afternoon with us, and I truly enjoyed our conversations,” Avva said. “This award is more than just a title; it’s a relationship with a brilliant scientist, an inspiration for my creativity and drive, and a standard to uphold.”

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Mather Scholar alumna and current aerospace engineer at Goddard Allison Willingham recalled traveling to a NASA technical conference in Pasadena, Calif., with her mentor and the impact that it made.

“I had never been to a conference before, and I learned a lot about new state-of-the-art technologies used in satellites, she said. “It expanded my knowledge of what design of spacecraft looks like and encouraged me to continue interning at Goddard in the Components and Hardware branch. Two years later, I am working full time as a civil servant and loving my job!”

David Rosage, Goddard’s administrator for Student On-Line Application for Recruiting interns, fellows and scholars, has worked with the program since its founding.

“It all got started after an informal discussion I had with Dr. Mather,” Rosage said. “He advised that he would like to use some of his award money to give back to Goddard by identifying GSFC interns who would like to be part of Goddard's future.”

The rest is history.

According to Rosage, the ultimate goal of the program is to populate Goddard with Mather Scholar employees. To date, there have been 53 Mather Nobel Scholars. Keeping the awardees in mind, the journey doesn’t end after college. “Once a John Mather Scholar, always a John Mather Scholar,” the program’s motto proudly states.

To view the list of 2013 John Mather Nobel Award Scholars, visit http://www.spacegrant.org/mather/2013

Crystal Garner
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

John Mather Nobel Scholars gather with scholarship alumni and the Nobel Prize-winning scientist himself (back row, black jacket).
Image Credit: 
Courtesy David Rosage
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John Mather and Caitlin Bailey
New scholar Caitlin Bailey receives a lapel pin from John Mather.
Image Credit: 
Courtesy David Rosage
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Page Last Updated: August 7th, 2013
Page Editor: Rob Garner