Aerospace and Civil Engineering Students Selected as Goldwater Scholars

Cody VanNostrand and Jose Arturo Venegas

Two students from the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) have been selected for the 2023 Goldwater Scholarship, the preeminent undergraduate scholarship awarded in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the United States. Cody VanNostrand, a junior aerospace engineering major, and Jose Arturo Venegas, a sophomore civil engineering major, were the students selected from ECS. Matthew Snyder, a psychology major from the College of Arts and Sciences, was also selected for a Goldwater Scholarship. This is the second consecutive year that Syracuse University has had three scholars selected in one year.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, the five-term senator from Arizona. The purpose of the program is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields.

The Goldwater Foundation received 1,267 nominations this year from around the country and 413 students were selected for the scholarship.

Each of the Syracuse University Goldwater Scholarship nominees worked with the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) to prepare their application. A faculty committee, headed by James Spencer, professor of chemistry, selected Syracuse’s nominees for the national competition.

Cody VanNostrand

VanNostrand’s drive to study aerospace engineering comes from his desire to benefit society, specifically through improving transportation and aerospace vehicle capabilities. “Whether it be the upcoming urban air mobility industry, fluid-traversing robots or new types of space propulsion, a more mobile society will be able to better collect information and respond to the challenges it will face,” he says. “The aerospace field is one that is forward-looking, always with new ideas, technologies and challenges just around the corner, and I am excited to help create new ideas and solve such challenges.”

His study abroad experience in Florence, Italy, confirmed his intended path of study. “I was able to visit museums in my free time featuring the original instruments of scientists and engineers such as Galilei, DaVinci and even Bernoulli. Seeing the original instruments and how they directly related to the fundamental concepts of my coursework was both humbling and inspiring,” he says.

VanNostrand has seized opportunities for research since his first year in college. In Spring 2021, he joined the Aerospace Computational Methods Lab (ACML) of John Dannenhoffer, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. That summer, he participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in which he and a partner remotely coded and developed two models of balsa planes. In Summer 2022, as part of an REU program, he joined the Combustion and Energy Research Lab (COMER) of Jeongmin Ahn, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, where he learned how to design and make a testing procedure for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). He is second author on a paper published in the Proceedings of the Nineteenth International Conference on Flow Dynamics. Last year, he was selected to participate in the L’SPACE NASA workforce development program. The experience he has gained in writing proposals, using quad charts, science traceability matrices, solicitation reviews and team-based research has helped to prepare him for a career in the space industry.

VanNostrand is currently working on his Honors thesis project investigating the fin oscillations of the manta ray via a model of his design, under the mentorship of Kasey Laurent, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. He plans to obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and pursue research and development in aerospace robotics at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory or in the private space industry.

“The Goldwater Scholarship is an amazing opportunity that will not only financially support the beginning of my career, but will also open me up to a network of scholar alumni that offer mentoring and advice; this will be immensely useful as I begin looking at graduate school,” he says. “I am incredibly honored to have been selected for this scholarship, and I am thankful for all the guidance I’ve received from the mechanical and aerospace engineering department and CFSA, and especially for continuous support from my friends and family.”

Jose Arturo Venegas

Venegas’ long-term goal is to aid as many people as possible while improving the conditions of the natural environment. “Civil engineering provides me with an avenue to improve the natural integration of infrastructure and utilities we use on a daily basis, while incorporating my passion for sciences, math and sustainability. I appreciate the career flexibility and hands-on field work that civil engineering allows,” he says.

Even before getting to the Syracuse University campus, Venegas began conducting research in the multiscale material modeling lab of Zhao Qin, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. He developed an independent research project focused on verifying whether a structurally complex fiber-reinforced composite expressed a real-world negative Poisson’s ratio during compression. Through this research, Venegas has used classical lamination theory to identify a baseline of mechanics for composite structure variations. He has also utilized computer-aided modeling and finite element analysis to support the elastic data predicted in in-situ imaging experiments.

Venegas gained additional research experience participating in a National Science Foundation REU program in materials science research at the University of California-Irvine in Summer 2022. He worked on two projects–one in an all-solid-state battery lab and another in a grain boundary (GB) characterization lab. “Each project provided me with insights into electrochemistry and materials science,” he says. Venegas was a part of the Strasbourg Center: Engineering program in fall 2022.

Venegas plans to earn a Ph.D. in civil engineering and pursue research on ecologically sound building material composites, with the goal of revolutionizing sustainable infrastructure in the U.S.

“The Goldwater Scholarship supports my commitment to materials research to expand energy infrastructure globally. I’m also excited to get involved in the Goldwater Ambassadors program to provide STEM mentorship to other students. I am honored to be recognized and could not have done it without the support of my research mentor, Dr. Zhao Qin, the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising, my family and friends and many more,” says Venegas.

CFSA seeks applicants for the Goldwater Scholarship each fall; the campus deadline is mid-November each year. Interested students should contact CFSA at