Engineering student receives $10,000 scholarship from astronaut

Retired NASA astronaut and CU alum Vance Brand visited his Alma mater to present student Sri Radha
with a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

Junior chemical and biological engineering major, Srinidhi Radhakrishnan, accepts her scholarship in the amount of $10,000 on Friday October 5, 2012 in Andrews Hall. The award was presented to Radhakrishnan by astronaut and CU alumni Vance Brand, left, on behalf of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. (CU Independent/Nate Bruzdzinski)

Every chair in the common room of Andrews Hall was filled Friday afternoon and people stood anywhere they could to see Sri Radha (Srinidhi Radhakrishnan), a 19-year-old junior biological and chemical
engineering major, receive her scholarship and hear the famous astronaut who had come to congratulate the student on her accomplishments.

Scot Douglass, associate professor for engineering and Herbst Humanities, began the event by talking about the programs Andrews Hall supports as an engineering dorm. He said that their goal is to cultivate
students that are “deeply ambitious without being competitive.”

Douglass introduced Radha and shared her involvement on campus and beyond which includes being a mentor, a recitation leader, participating in research, helping the homeless and working at an orphanage in

Brand commented on how fun it was to talk to a college group. He briefly discussed the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and presented a video that further explained its initiatives.

The Astronaut Scholarship is awarded to full-time junior, senior, and grad students nominated by faculty
and in pursuance of degrees in engineering, natural and applied sciences, and mathematics. Deborah Viles, assistant to the vice chancellor for academic affairs, is responsible for nominating Radha for the scholarship.

The recipients of the award have the opportunity to meet astronauts, business leaders, and other scholars. The astronauts serve as mentors to the recipients and the goal of the foundation is to fuel the passions of future leaders.

Brand asked Radha to come to the front of the room where he handed her a giant check totaling $10,000, producing a huge smile on the student’s face as the crowd erupted into cheer. She thanked everyone in attendance, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, Brand, and all of the individuals who have supported her thus far.

Following the award, Brand went back up to the stage to show a video of his first mission into space. The video featured Brand and his fellow astronauts meeting with Soviets in space along with them playing ping pong with sugar cubes. Brand described some of the silliness that occurred on his mission which drew laughs from the crowd.

“I think it’s really cool that I got to meet Vance Brand because he’s such a pivotal person in our history,” Radha said.

On Brand’s first mission, it was the first time that Soviets and Americans connected their shuttles and met with each other in space. However, Brand revealed that all of the astronauts were good friends by the time the mission began since they had gone through extensive training together beforehand. Brand also mentioned how the American astronauts treated their Soviet counterparts to a trip to Disneyland as well as a Texas ranch.

Brand completed four missions to space throughout his career and retired from NASA four and a half years ago.

After the video, attendees had the opportunity to ask the retired astronaut questions. One student asked what Brand’s favorite part of his job was.

“It was all good,” Brand said. “I love being an astronaut. Flying in space was the best part.”

Radha said that she plans on doing medical research and becoming a doctor in the future. The scholarship will help her with school expenses so she can follow her dream.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alexandria Aguerre at

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