Columbia, MD and Washington, DC — November 18, 2019. The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) today announced the winners of the prestigious annual Distinguished Undergraduate Awards in keeping with its goal to recognize and develop promising future scientists in space-related disciplines. These awards honor outstanding undergraduate students in fields of aerospace engineering and space science through a competitive process. They are granted to students who tackle challenging questions in space research and exploration, particularly astrophysics and astronomy and engineering, demonstrate leadership abilities, and are poised to make significant contributions to their field of study.

The awards were established to honor the service and memory of individuals who made significant contributions to their fields and to USRA. The 2019 Award winners are:

 Kevin Ortiz Ceballos, University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras

Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship, which honors McGetchin’s contributions to planetary science.

 Allegra Farrar, George Washington University

John R. Sevier Memorial Scholarship, which honors Sevier’s contributions to aerospace science.

• Natalie Allen, University of Rochester

Frederick A. Tarantino Scholarship, which honors Tarantino’s contributions to USRA and his commitment to education.

 Katherine Melbourne, Yale University

James B. Willett Education Memorial Scholarship, which honors Willett’s contribution to astrophysics.

“This year’s winners represent the very best of tomorrow’s space scientists and engineers,” says Dr. Jeffrey A. Isaacson, President and CEO, Universities Space Research Association. “This award is a testament to their achievements to date, and their promise as future leaders in space science and associated technology development.”

In addition to the winners, nine students received the “Honorable Mention” status

  • Charles Boyle, University of Texas at Austin
  • Anika Hidayat, University of Washington
  • Lauren Higgins, University of Missouri – Kansas City
  • Alexander Kling, Stony Brook University
  • Walter Manuel, Purdue University
  • Kendra Noneman, Boise State University
  • Nikolas Pardoe, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
  • Sara Rybak, University of Wisconsin – Superior
  • Ryan Udell, Rice University

Judges from 13 universities, reviewed 85 eligible candidates. Eligible applicants consisted of junior and senior undergraduates who needed to meet criteria that included achieving a GPA of 3.5 or higher, demonstrating leadership skills and the potential to impact space science and STEM education. The final decision was made by USRA President Dr. Jeffrey Isaacson.

The USRA Distinguished Undergraduate Award Program is an annual award program that provides college scholarship awards to outstanding students who have a career interest in the sciences or engineering with an emphasis on space research, space science education, or aerospace. Information on this award program is available at:

About USRA

Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology and engineering. USRA operates scientific institutes and facilities, and conducts other major research and educational programs, under Federal funding. USRA engages the university community and employs in-house scientific leadership, innovative research and development, and project management expertise. More information about USRA is available at www.usra.ed