Out of this world: MSU Goldwater Scholars join 2024 Astronaut Scholars Class

Portrait of David  C. Heson
David C. Heson
Portrait of Annamarie Thompson
Annamarie Thompson 
Portrait of Alyssa Williams
Alyssa Williams 

Photos by Grace Cockrell
Contact: Carl Smith

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Three highly decorated Mississippi State seniors are adding a new, prestigious title to their resumes: Astronaut Scholar.

David C. Heson of Guntown, Annamarie L. Thompson of Trussville, Alabama, and Alyssa Williams of Franklin, Tennessee, are the university’s latest recipients of the nationally renowned Astronaut Scholarship, a prestigious designation that recognizes the best and brightest science-, technology-, engineering- and mathematics-focused students in the U.S.

They are among 71 members of the national Astronaut Foundation’s 2024 Astronaut Scholars Class, and each student will receive up to $15,000 and join a lifelong network of professional mentors and peer researchers.

“David, Annamarie and Alyssa are truly exceptional students, and they have made the most of every opportunity a Mississippi State University experience offers. I applaud their hard work and dedication to excellence in all they do,” MSU President Mark E. Keenum said. “I’m also grateful to the world-class faculty and staff who have taught and mentored them and who are committed to all of our students here at MSU.”

The three students—all members of MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College—are also the university’s 23rd, 24th and 25th national Barry Goldwater Scholars. They are among only 438 Goldwater Scholars chosen this year from 1,353 natural science, engineering and mathematics students nominated by 446 colleges and universities.

Heson, a Hassell Franklin Presidential Scholar, is majoring in physics, mathematics and computer science, with minors in statistics and German. He plans to pursue a doctoral degree in computational-theoretical condensed matter aspires to teach physics at a large, public university.

Thompson, an MSU Provost Scholar, is a biomedical engineering major minoring in mathematics. She also is enrolled in MSU’s MBA Venture Pathway Program, which supplements her STEM curriculum with one business course each semester. She will seek a doctoral degree in cancer biology and aims to conduct translational and clinical pediatric oncology research on brain tumors at a leading research and teaching hospital.

Williams, a biochemistry and psychology double major minoring in cognitive science, plans to study cognitive neuroscience during her doctoral program. She will conduct research investigating learning and memory through the lens of computational modeling and neuroimaging, and she also plans to teach at the university level.

Astronaut Scholarships are awarded to juniors and seniors who intend to pursue research or advance their field upon completion of their final degrees. Scholars are selected for their initiative, creativity and excellence in their chosen field. In addition to receiving a financial award, they enjoy networking and mentoring opportunities with astronauts, alumni and industry leaders; participation in the Michael Collins Family Professional Development Program; and a paid trip to attend ASF’s Innovators Week and Gala in Houston, Texas, which provides an opportunity for the scholars to present their research at a technical conference.

MSU nominations for the Astronaut Scholarship are managed by the university’s Office of Prestigious External Scholarships and Director David Hoffman, who also is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures. Contact Hoffman for more information or visit https://www.honors.msstate.edu/prestigious-external-scholarships. Visit www.astronautscholarship.org/index.html for more information about the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and the Astronaut Scholarship.

Learn more about MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences by visiting www.cas.msstate.edu and www.cals.msstate.edu, respectively.

The Shackouls Honors College is available online at www.honors.msstate.edu.

Mississippi State University is taking care of what matters. Learn more at www.msstate.edu.