Florida Tech Announces 2017 Astronaut Scholars

Students Majoring in Planetary
Science, Aerospace Engineering

MELBOURNE, FLA. — A senior majoring in planetary science and a junior studying aerospace engineering have been named Florida Institute of Technology’s Astronaut Scholars for the 2017-18 academic year, a prestigious, merit-based honor reflecting the students’ exemplary academic performance, ingenuity and unique aptitude for research.

Senior Abigail Flom and junior Damian Smith will receive up to $10,000 each as Astronaut Scholars and many additional benefits, including mentoring by a scholar alumni, C-suite executive or an astronaut and opportunities to participate in special development programs and events from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF), which selects the final winners and administers the awards.

New this year, all incoming Astronaut Scholars are offered an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the ASF Innovators Gala featuring the Neil Armstrong Award of Excellence in mid-September. The scholars will be recognized for their achievements and receive their awards at this event.

Since its inception more than 30 years ago, Orlando-based ASF has awarded more than $4 million in scholarships to more than 400 of the nation’s top scholars. Florida Tech is one of only 35 cooperating educational institutions selected to participate in the Astronaut Scholarship program.

A Minnesota native, Flom has been active in her time at Florida Tech inside and outside the classroom. In addition Dean’s List appearances every semester, Flom has been involved in helping to develop soil that can simulate Martian regolith to help future efforts at colonizing the Red Planet. She has also worked on a remote sensing group project, served as an undergraduate research assistant and this year, attended the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics.

With Dean’s List appearances since he arrived in 2014, Smith, like Flom, has excelled in the classroom while also seeking knowledge well beyond those walls. An avionics/electrical engineering intern at Piper Aircraft in Vero Beach and a competitor in NASA’s hybrid motor rocket competition, among other activities, the Maine native hopes to work as an engineer, and eventually project manager, at a major aerospace company.

Flom and Smith’s interests and achievements highlight Florida Tech’s focus on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education, and the university’s commitment to fostering the STEM leaders of tomorrow.

“With our strong STEM curricula and hands-on learning opportunities, we are excited to help Abbey and Damian – and many more Florida Tech students – learn the skills and critical thinking that will allow then to excel in their STEM professions,” said Hamid Rassoul, dean of the College of Science who was co-leader of the Florida Tech ASF selection committee.

Edward Kalajian, associate dean in the College of Engineering and Computing and co-leader of the selection committee, applauded ASF for its steadfast support in maintaining American excellence in technology and innovation.

“We are honored to be among the select universities whose students are considered for the Astronaut Scholarship program,” he said, “and we thank ASF for its continuing investment in these critical issues.”


ASF Scholar
Abigail Flom


ASF scholar
Damian Smith
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