Shobande to Graduate as N.C. A&T’s Latest Astronaut Scholar

By Jackie Torok / 05/13/2022 College of Engineering, Chemical, Biological, and Bio Engineering

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (May 13, 2022) – Mariah Shobande will graduate from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University with her B.S. in bioengineering this Saturday, May 14, as the university’s most recent Astronaut Scholar.

The scholarship provided Shobande with up to $15,000 for eligible educational expenses, a paid trip to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s Innovators Week & Gala in Florida, and lifelong engagement with astronauts and STEM researchers and innovators, Astronaut Scholar alumni, and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF).

A member of the inaugural cohort of Cheatham-White Scholars, Shobande, of Durham, North Carolina, is one of 15 people from A&T who have received the Astronaut Scholarship, bringing the total number of awards and renewals to 17 since 1994.

“This honor is an example of how Mariah has pursued and achieved excellence throughout her Aggie career,” said Margaret I. Kanipes, Ph.D., University Honors Program (UHP) director. “I know she will add her experiences as an Astronaut Scholar to her arsenal of skill, talent and dedication that will propel her educational and professional endeavors.”

The Astronaut Scholarship, created in 1984 by the surviving Mercury 7 astronauts and administered by the ASF, provides more than 60 scholarships annually to the most academically accomplished undergraduate second- and third-year students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who are intent on pursuing research or advancing their fields upon graduation.

“I spent my time developing an understanding of research surrounding iPSC (induced pluripotent stem cell) organoids at top universities across the country,” said Shobande. “This is because following the stroke of my grandmother when I was 13, I explored literature surrounding strokes and stem cells and questioned if iPSCs could be used as a medium for treating severe brain damage and trauma caused by strokes and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

Shobande plans to pursue her master’s degree in tissue engineering and Ph.D. in neuroscience, ultimately to lead her own research within universities that will improve existing technology and lengthen the lifespan of iPSC organoids to investigate degenerative diseases more accurately.

“The love I found for research is what pushed me to explore research experiences more in line with my interests and goals,” she said. “I believe that working with ASF will help me achieve my goals in advancing the stem cell field and advancing organoid focused research.”

Shobande has investigated adolescent binge alcohol exposure since June 2019 with Antoinette Maldonado-Devincci, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. She also participated in the University of Pennsylvania Summer Undergraduate Internship Program in June 2020, when she analyzed and quantified proliferating cells within an induced human pluripotent stem cell forebrain organoid model to investigate the effects of retrovirus medication on cell division using FIJI.

Shobande’s most current work resulted in her inclusion as one of the authors of “Adolescent intermittent ethanol exposure induces sex-dependent divergent changes in ethanol drinking and motor activity in adulthood in C5BL/6J mice,” published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research in 2021.

“For three years, Mariah’s interest and persistence has resulted in local and national STEM achievements and recognitions, and she is positioned to help improve and create knowledge about degenerative brain disease,” said Alsace-Lorraine Gallop, A&T’s National Scholarships and Fellowships Coordinator and Fulbright Program adviser. “Dr. Bernard Harris and the HBCU Astronaut Group’s continued sponsorship is greatly appreciated. It has enabled Mariah’s access as an Astronaut Scholar to an immense STEM network.”

While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Shobande served the Aggie Source Food Pantry, having designed an anonymity system to secure the identities of patrons who use the service to ensure their comfort and shield them from stigma. She has been an active member of the UHP, as well as the N.C. A&T chapters of the Society of Women Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, PRISM, and Biomedical Engineering Society. As a Helping Orient Minority Engineers (HOME) Scholar, she also led a design team that created a delivery truck/store counter for HOME’s mobile grocery store system to address a food desert in Greensboro. Additionally, she has been named to A&T’s Chancellor’s List, which recognizes full-time students who earn at least a 3.75 GPA in at least 12 hours or more of semester credit.

Eligible 2023 Astronaut Scholarship candidates who are interested in applying for required campus endorsement should contact Gallop in NCAT Extraordinary Opportunities (NCAT EO) before October 2022.

Media Contact Information: jtorok@ncat.edu

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