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Three A&M-Commerce Students Selected for Prestigious Texas Space Grant Consortium Funding

COMMERCE, TX—The Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC), which is funded through a NASA training grant, has selected three Texas A&M University-Commerce students—Rebecca Preston, Amber Stinson and Judah Byars—to receive grant funding for the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters.

TSGC includes 65 universities, industrial organizations, non-profits and government agencies in Texas. Through education and research, the consortium inspires Texans to participate in NASA’s mission to protect and improve life on Earth, extend life beyond our planet and explore the universe. According to its website, TSGC has awarded more than $2,000,000 in Fellowships and scholarships to students in Texas.

Graduate students Preston and Stinson were selected to receive TSGC Fellowship grants, which are aimed at encouraging graduate study in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Preston and Stinson earned their bachelor’s degrees from A&M-Commerce in physics with an emphasis on astrophysics. They are now researching the structure of neutron stars with A&M-Commerce Associate Professor William Newton, Ph.D., and are set to graduate in 2023 with master’s degrees in physics.

“I am thrilled that these talented graduate students have received this prestigious fellowship,” Newton said.

Preston said the fellowship means she will not have to choose between completing her degree or providing life-changing applied behavior analysis therapy for her son, Charlie, who has been diagnosed with autism.

“This fellowship will allow me to focus on my research and classes at the high standard that I strive for without added financial stress,” she said. “I’m extremely grateful to Dr. Newton, who continues to be an amazing mentor and source of encouragement and support. It’s because of him that I have been able to pursue my passion while still supporting my children’s needs.”

Preston plans to continue researching astrophysics, perhaps as a professor or working with NASA or a national lab.

Stinson said the funding will offset the high cost of commuting to the A&M-Commerce campus from her home in Nevada, Texas, without adding a second job to her already busy schedule.

“Being recognized by NASA—a group I idolized as a child—is overwhelming, to say the least,” Stinson said. “I am beyond grateful and deeply appreciative of this fellowship. It’s a huge relief and takes a massive weight off my shoulders.”

She encourages fellow students to reach for the stars regarding grant opportunities. “Even if you think you’ll never get accepted, apply anyway. It’s better than wondering, ‘What if?’” she said.

Stinson plans to earn her doctorate and work in a national lab. She said working as part of the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration would be a dream come true.

Judah Byars, a fourth-year student set to graduate next spring with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics, received the STEM Columbia Crew Memorial Undergraduate Scholarship. The scholarship program recognizes high-quality undergraduate students and encourages them to pursue graduate studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Byars said he is surprised and humbled to receive the scholarship. He plans to allocate the funding toward meals for the upcoming school year, with the remainder aimed at repaying student loans.

“I’m honored to be selected for this scholarship, which will alleviate financial stress and allow me to focus on my academics and personal life,” he said. “Earning this award took a lot of effort and discipline. This is a testament that we should strive to do our best in all that we do, and I will continue to embrace this concept in my future endeavors.”

His goal after graduation is to attend a graduate program specializing in nuclear fusion. He hopes to one day help revolutionize the energy industry by introducing clean, cost-saving alternatives to current energy suppliers.

Cheri Davis, Ph.D., has represented A&M-Commerce as a member of TSGC since 2009.

“Our students were selected from a very competitive pool of applicants from consortium member institutions including Rice University, Baylor University, The University of Texas and several Texas A&M System schools,” Davis said. “Their selection confirms what we’ve known for some time: A&M-Commerce is a top destination in Texas for students who desire to be the best in physics and astronomy.”

Learn more about the Texas Space Grant Consortium and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at A&M-Commerce.