Mack Cleveland ‘23 and Kevin Yao ‘23 Awarded the 2022 Astronaut Foundation Scholarship

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) seeks to support the brightest scholars in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) while commemorating the legacy of America’s pioneering astronauts. The ASF has supported undergraduate students across the nation in pursuing their education for more than 30 years. The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest and one of the most significant merit-based scholarships in STEM fields that can be awarded to an undergraduate. Students must be nominated by faculty based on achievements in their chosen field. Out of a select pool of 45 Universities who are invited to nominate their best and brightest, ASF typically chooses one recipient from each school. However, Texas A&M undergraduate students have proved themselves to be incredibly strong candidates and ASF has awarded multiple scholarships to our students in a single year.

Texas A&M University has had 18 honorees since the scholarship was established in 1986 by the surviving Mercury 7 astronauts. More than 100 astronauts have contributed to the cause, resulting in over $4 million in scholarships.

LAUNCH: National Fellowships congratulates the two awardees of the 2022 Astronaut Scholarship:

Mack smiling at the camera.
Mack Cleveland ’23

Mack Cleveland ‘23 is a materials science and engineering major with a minor in mathematics. His research focuses on preventing degradation of materials. Dr. Michael J. Demkowicz, in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, advised Mack on his first research project at the Center for Research Excellence of Dynamically Deformed Solids. This project found that amorphous silicon can be used for radiation shielding against alpha particles. Mack published these findings in the academic journal Physical Review Materials in January 2022. He subsequently researched ways to test a metal pipe’s protective coating without destroying the pipe itself, and how to predict the degradation/failure of concrete through coding a simulation of how the concrete’s ions dissolve over time. Mack is a University Scholar, as well as the Editor-In-Chief of Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. When Mack graduates, he plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in computational methods to continue his research on novel materials and their response to degradation. This summer, Mack is conducting research with Dr. Durga Paudyal of the Ames National Laboratory as part of the Summer Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) sponsored by the US Department of Energy.

Kevin smiling at the camera.
Kevin Yao ’23

Kevin Yao ‘23 is a double major in computer engineering and mathematics. His research applies his engineering and computer science experience towards medical applications. Along with Dr. Steve Wong from Houston Methodist Hospital and Texas A&M, Kevin developed a telemedicine app that uses machine learning and computer vision to screen for strokes in patients. He published his research in the IEEE Xplore digital library in November 2021. He also conducts research under Dr. Cheo Cheng from the Baylor College of Medicine where he discovered a connection between immune infiltration and Chromosome 20q in colon cancer patients. In this lab, Kevin created a model to analyze the effect of gene expression on cancer prognosis and found inter-gene expressions are more informative than singular gene expression. When Kevin graduates, he intends to pursue an M.D., and Ph.D. in computer engineering. His career goals involve developing biomedical devices and applications while working as a researcher and practitioner. This summer, Kevin is working as a software development intern at Amazon, while concurrently working with a startup to research cryptocurrency bridges.

Mack and Kevin will be honored at the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Award Ceremony in October 2022 at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station.

To read more about how LAUNCH: National Fellowships helps prepare outstanding students to compete for nationally-competitive awards such as the Astronaut Scholarship with the gen