“The first Indian woman to land on the Moon has already been born. It is very likely that this young woman will go through an elite institution like the International Space University before she steps foot on the Moon in a little over a decade’s time. This scholarship project is an historic opportunity to achieve an international impact with very select, but very talented Indian post-graduate students,” said Dr Michael Potter of Geeks Without Frontiers, one of the founders of Dr Kalpana Chawla Scholarship project. The project recently announced its four funded scholars for 2019—Nikhitha Chadde, Nitya Pandey, Aditi Nilvarna and Rushanka Amrutkar.

The project aims to develop strong technical and leadership qualities of talented Indian women around sectors like Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Space Studies at the International Space University (ISU). The scholars get to attend ISU’s Space Studies Program (SSP) with a focus to encourage Indian women from science, medicine, materials, satellite technology, and other space-related areas and have similar drive as Dr Chawla’s selfless and passionate pursuit of education and excellence.

The latest lot of scholars come from various backgrounds and geographical locations. Nikhitha Chadde graduated from Aerospace Engineering from Alliance College of Engineering and Design, Bangalore and did projects at the National Aerospace Laboratories. She also finished her Flight Lab training from IIT, Kanpur after which she co-founded an NGO called Society for Space Education Research and Development. She has taught over 4000 students in India about space and won the Best Teacher competition organised by ISRO.

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Another scholar, Pandey comes from a small town in Chhattisgarh and had an inclination towards space studies since her childhood. While she loves science as a subject, Physics grabbed her attention and she chose to graduate in Master of Science program in Physics, with a specialisation in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Nilvarna comes from Thane-Mumbai and did her B-Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering from NMIMS University, Mumbai in 2017. After that she applied to various colleges in the US to study aeronautics and astronautical engineering but in vain until she was selected for this project.

“We are pleased to inform you that the ISU funding committee is prepared to offer you a scholarship of 16,000 Euros towards total tuition of 18,500 Euros,” read the letter she received from ISU signed by director of admissions Nassim Bovet.

She told TOI, “Space has always been my passion. My interest was triggered off when I started watching space-themed programmes on Discovery channel while I was in std. II and III.”

“We are pleased to inform you that the ISU funding committee is prepared to offer you a scholarship of 16,000 Euros towards total tuition of 18,500 Euros”

Last but not the least Amrutkar belongs to Nashik and interned with ISRO a while back. She is a Ph.D. research scholar and teaching assistant at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB). Along with that she is a ‘scientista,’ supporting women in STEM, a rover in space, following a self-committed pace and engaged in the Earth and Mars exploration mission.

“During my internship in Indian Space Research Organisation, I got the opportunity to work with the leading scientists and research scholars. This led to the significant publications of my research work in Lambert Academic Publication as a solo author of three books. I feel honoured to be recently elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. This gives me an opportunity to be a part of the eminent scientific community and cherish the shared knowledge pool,” an elated Rushanka, who also recently got Sparrho Early Career Researcher Prize (£ 500), told Entertainment Times.

Picture credit- Globe News Wire

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