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Student receives prestigious NASA award

Benjamin J. Scaralia of West Rutland, a senior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a 2006 graduate of Mount Saint Joseph Academy, has been awarded the John Mather Nobel Scholarship by the Henry Foundation, Inc. for his summer internship work at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Baltimore, Md. Mr. Scaralia is only one of seventeen international students to have won the award, and the first student in the state of Vermont.

Currently in his second year as a NASA summer intern, Scaralia has been working as a Quantum Chemist with Dr. Igor Eberstein and Dr. William Ward on a project formally titled "Quantum Mechanical Investigation of Planetary DOH/HOH", which is aimed at studying atmospheric changes on the planet Venus. During his tenure, he has also developed a college-level physics program on Thermodynamics for NASA to be used on the Digital Learning Network.

Eligibility criteria for the award included: a rising senior undergraduate with intent for graduate school through third year graduate level; a minimum 3.5 GPA during Fall 2008 and /or Spring 2009 semesters; demonstrated interest in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM); and research experience.

The funding for the scholarship originated in a generous contribution from the John and Jane Mather Foundation for Science and the Arts, which in turn was funded from the award of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics to Dr. John Mather for his work on the "Big Bang" theory.

Scaralia is majoring in applied physics at RPI in Troy, N.Y., with an interest in Astrobiology through Quantum Chemistry. His internship in NASA's prestigious Summer Aerospace Workforce Development Research Internship Program (SAWDRIP) is being funded through the Vermont Space Grant Consortium.

The award was presented at a special honorary luncheon at the Johns Hopkins Club in Baltimore, MD, which was followed by a visit to the Space Telescope Science Institute, the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope, where Mr. Scaralia received the designation "John Mather Nobel Scholar."

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