Florida Tech Announces 2018 Astronaut Scholars

Students Majoring in Astrobiology,
Aerospace Engineering

MELBOURNE, FLA. — Astrobiology major Nathan Hadland and aerospace engineering major Noah Nodolski have been named Florida Institute of Technology’s Astronaut Scholars for the 2018-19 academic year. This prestigious, merit-based honor reflects the students’ exemplary academic performance, ingenuity and unique aptitude for research.

The two juniors 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.

All incoming Astronaut Scholars are also offered an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the ASF Innovators Gala featuring the Neil Armstrong Award of Excellence on Aug. 25. 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 over $4 million in scholarships to more than 400 of the nation’s top scholars. Florida Tech is one of only 40 cooperating educational institutions selected to participate in the Astronaut Scholarship program.

The Florida Tech winners are indeed top scholars, but their quest for knowledge and experience takes them beyond the classroom, as well.

Hadland spent time last year at the University of Tennessee Knoxville as part of National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates internship. And in 2016 he served as a paleontology intern at the Arizona Museum of Natural History. On campus, the Gilbert, Arizona, native has served as an undergraduate research assistant in Physics and Space Science and for NASA.

He plans to pursue a Ph.D. and then find work at NASA or a nonprofit involved in planetary science and astrobiology. His ultimate dream: to become an astronaut. After all of that, Hadland sees himself serving as a professor, where he can inspire young scientists while continuing his research.

Andrew Palmer, an assistant professor of biological sciences for whom Hadland served as a research assistant, said in his letter of recommendation that Hadland ranks among “the most talented undergraduates I have had the opportunity to work with in my entire career.”

Palmer added, “He is independent, ambitious, disciplined, innately curious, and has excellent lab skills.”

Nodolski, like Hadland, possesses a seemingly limitless curiosity and tireless work ethic. Starting his freshman year, the Pottstown, Pennsylvania, native joined a research team under Florida Tech’s Csaba Palotai, an associate professor of physics and space sciences, and since then has been involved in many projects including research of Jupiter’s atmosphere, Neptune’s Great Dark Spot, and the Shoemaker Levy Jupiter Comet impact.

In every challenge he has faced, even those no other undergrads had previously been able to figure out, Nodolski excelled, Palotai said in his recommendation letter. “He is driven, dependable and very coachable,” he said.

Nodolski is currently serving as a systems engineering intern at Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control facility in Orlando and after Florida Tech, plans to work for NASA or a private space company to further his research into space exploration. He eventually will return to school for his Ph.D., and then work as a professor to encourage more involvement in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

“Florida Tech is immensely proud of our 2018 Astronaut Scholars, both of them great examples of what we are all about: scientific brilliance coupled with the burning drive to change the world for the better,” said Marco Carvalho, dean of Florida Tech’s College of Engineering and Science. “We thank the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation for being a national leader in STEM advocacy and for their partnership, which provides such wonderful opportunities for our students.”


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