UA senior awarded high-merit scholarship

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Rebecca Marie Sasnett

Rebecca Marie Sasnett / The Daily Wildcat Eric Hansen, chemistry and mathematics senior, stands in a lab in The Chemical Science Building Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. Hansen won The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation $10,000 scholarship.

Ethan McSweeney

A UA student recently received a scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which provides the largest merit-based awards to students in STEM fields.

Eric Hansen, a senior studying chemistry and math, was awarded $10,000 on Friday in a ceremony with former astronaut Ed Gibson, who served on the Skylab 4 mission in 1974.

“I was surprised when I was nominated,” Hansen said, “and I was surprised when I actually got the scholarship.”

Hansen started studying creative writing but always maintained an interest in chemistry. After seeking advice from his siblings and parents, he became unsure if he wanted to continue with creative writing and began taking classes in subjects he enjoyed. From those, he decided chemistry and math were the right choice for him.

Hansen has received many other scholarships and recognitions, including the Goldwater Scholarship, the Wildcat Excellence Award and the Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry. He currently does research with Neal Armstrong, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and has a collaboration with UA Professor Jeanne Pemberton working with photovoltaics and trying to make new solar cell architecture. He is also the only undergraduate teaching assistant for UA Professor Anne Padias’ organic chemistry lab.

“I run the organic chemistry labs, and [Hansen] came to me to apply for the TA position,” said Padias, director of academic services in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, “and I said, ‘Sure, let’s do it.’”

Hansen took the class his sophomore year and began teaching the lab as a junior.

“It was something I knew I wanted to do when I was taking the lab,” Hansen said, “and I heard there was an opening for the TA position, and my old TA directed Dr. Padias to me.”

Padias got to know Hansen through a project he worked on for the organic chemistry class she taught. She said, as a student Hansen stood out because he knew the material exceptionally well.
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, founded by the Mercury Seven astronauts, awards scholarships to science, technology, engineering and math students.

“The professors at the universities nominate the students, and our selection committee then selects a scholar from each school,” said Amanda Miner, a senior communications representative with the foundation.

Hansen credited UA professors Padias, Pemberton and Armstrong for their help in the process.
“If I could [give] any solid advice to anyone applying for scholarships, it’s that professors you come in contact with are the biggest thing that can help you,” Hansen said. “And take into account what they tell you. If they’re expecting something of you, then it’s probably the right thing you should be doing.”

Hansen said he is working on applying for graduate school and plans on getting a doctorate in a material science or analytical chemistry field.

Katrina Miranda, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry who was Hansen’s professor for inorganic chemistry, said she was happy to see her former student be awarded.

“We have a huge number of very successful students in CBC,” Miranda said, “and it’s nice to see an individual recognized this way.”