Scholarship urges women into science, engineering

By Kim Burgess
The Herald Journal
December 21, 2007

Utah State University engineering sophomore Sarah Isert dreams of exploring space as an astronaut and a new scholarship is helping her get a bit closer to that goal.

The school’s Space Dynamics Lab recently began offering two scholarships to encourage more women to pursue science and engineering careers.

Isert and physics major Taren McKenna were the first recipients of the new awards.

“I appreciate that this scholarship encourages women to pursue careers in the sciences, and it helps me look forward to my own science career,” McKenna said.
Currently, USU has 1,430 undergraduates in the College of Engineering; 180 are women — about 10 percent of the total.

“We look at the engineering workforce, particularly in Utah, and very few women go into it professionally,” said Steve Hansen, director of university relations for the SDL. “This (scholarship) is a little bit selfish. We’d sure like to hire them after they finish their degrees.”

The SDL scholarship is for second-year women and provides $500 per semester. It is renewable for two years. Recipients are considered for employment at the Space Dynamics Laboratory.

Hansen came up with the idea for the women’s scholarship, and said he was pleased with the winners.

Both have big plans for their future careers.

After completing her aerospace engineering degree, Isert wants to earn a doctorate in aeronautical engineering. To help her reach NASA , she plans to earn an Airline Transport Pilot’s license, allowing her to fly jets. Isert is also part of the USU Honors program and is a recipient of a Presidential Scholarship.

McKenna is a sophomore in the physics program, and is also studying calculus, computer science and other honors courses. She plans to complete master’s and doctoral degrees and would like to become a university researcher.

Like Isert, McKenna is part of the USU Honors program and is a recipient of a Presidential Scholarship.
The students were chosen based on a passion for science and engineering, high grade point average and desire to pursue further careers in their chosen majors.

“The competition for the SDL scholarship was intense,” said Michael Pavich, director of SDL. “Many admirable candidates presented themselves, but we feel Sarah and Taren rose above the rest and are worthy and deserving students.”

Funding for the scholarships comes from a USU endowment. The SDL could decide how to use the money.

A nonprofit research corporation owned by USU, the SDL focuses on creating new technologies for the military and the aerospace industry.

© 2007 The Herald Journal