CU senior to recieve $10,000 scholarship from a former astronaut
Thursday in the Engineering Center, former NASA astronaut and CU alumnus Scott Carpenter will present senior physics major William “Lee” Willcockson with a $10,000 scholarship.
Willcockson is one of 18 recipients selected for their achievements in science or engineering by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. The Foundation aims to help the nation retain its leadership in science and technology by awarding students who show promise, motivation and imagination.
“It will be quite exciting,” Willcockson said. “It should be quite an experience to meet Carpenter.”
Carpenter flew on the second American-manned orbital flight by NASA in 1962 and graduated from CU with an aeronautical engineering degree in 1949.
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation doesn’t require recipients to be working directly with space science, but is looking to strengthen America’s science and engineering foundation by funding students who are in those fields.
Willcockson was awarded this scholarship because of his research in plasma physics during the past two years. He was nominated to apply by his advisor and assistant professor in physics, Tobin Munsat.
“He is a very self-motivated student,” Munsat said. “I nominated him because he is an exceptional undergrad, does excellent in classes, and his research interests are in line with what the scholarship goals are.”
Willcockson’s research at CU with Munsat looks at plasma and the phenomena of magnetic reconnection and strives to understand how magnetic fields behave on stars. Willcockson also spent this past summer researching at Princeton with the Hall Thruster Experiment, which is a propulsion device that uses plasma as an engine.
“He certainly is very mature for an undergraduate,” Munsat said. “He studies extremely hard and keeps a good attitude about his work and keeps a balanced life.”
In addition to his research with Munsat, Willcockson is the president of the Society of Physics Students; he arranges speakers to talk at meetings and organizes trips to labs around Boulder.
“It’s really a social activity for physics students to get to know one another,” Willcockson said.
He is also a member of Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society, according to Munsat.
Willcockson graduated from Conifer High School in 2001, and in addition to his studies, he enjoys outdoor activities such as rock climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, and the occasional game of ultimate Frisbee.
He plans to use his scholarship money to finish out his senior year at CU. He also plans to continue with physics in graduate school, but he hasn’t begun the application process yet. However, he is looking at Princeton, Stanford and the University of Wisconsin at Madison as potential schools.
Carpenter will present Willcockson with the scholarship check at 4 p.m. in a ceremony at the Discovery Learning Collaboratory, room 1B70 in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.