Highlights from BYU colleges: Honors student works for NASA, Design student wins national competition


Honors College

BYU Honors student Gabe Richardson is working with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. (Gabe Richardson)

BYU Honors student Gabe Richardson is working with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The senior studying physics and mathematics credits the honors program for helping him attain the skills he needed to join the Pathways Program.

“Curiosity is a necessity working at NASA as we work to solve some of the hardest problems,” Richardson said. “The Honors focus on interdisciplinary thinking has helped maintain my curious mind and continue to love learning many kinds of new ideas. These new ideas create pathways for creativity and innovation in solving hard problems.”

Richardson was working on developing high-reflecting mirrors for spacecraft optics at NASA when he decided to ask the principal investigator if he could get further involved in the program. His skills in optical fabrication and testing were the perfect match for what the team needed. Richardson has been instrumental in developing NASA’s Quantum Dot Spectrometer, which lets scientists interpret light-matter interactions on a miniaturized scale.  

“Do not underestimate the power of finding the right people at the right time and working hard to gain others’ trust and confidence,” Richardson said. He said taking Physics 220 helped him get in touch with NASA mentors and start doing research. 

David M. Kennedy Center 

BYU students Ashlen Lemon, Natalya Nielsen and Orion Weller have been awarded as semi-finalists in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for studying abroad. (David M. Kennedy Center)

Three BYU students and alumni have been awarded as semi-finalists in the 2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Ashlen Lemon won an English Teaching Assistant Award that will allow her to teach English in Cambodia. Natalya Nielsen and Orion Weller both won Study/Research Awards. Nielsen will study Swedish and Danish literature in Sweden before earning a Ph.D. in Scandinavian studies. Weller will research natural language processing in Israel and will work to make computer science and artificial intelligence methods more effective.

The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. This program gives graduate students and college alumni chances for English teaching, studying and research in more than 140 countries. More than 11,000 students applied for grants this year. Lemon, Nielsen and Weller were among 2,200 to receive grants and were selected based on their service record, leadership potential and academic accomplishments.

College of Fine Arts and Communications

BYU graphic design alumna Audrey Hancock won the title of 2021 National Champion in a graphic design competition. (Audrey Hancock)

BYU graphic design alumna Audrey Hancock won the title of 2021 National Champion of the AIGA Professional Association for Design Command X. This is the second time a BYU alumni has claimed the title after Ainsley Romero in 2019. Hancock graduated in August 2020 with her bachelor’s in graphic design. Hancock was awarded cash, prizes and plenty of exposure. The Command X competition involved understanding design strategy, creatively executing projects and giving excellent presentations. 

“Designers have been reaching out to me on LinkedIn or Instagram, so it’s been cool for networking,” Hancock said.

Hancock said she loves the combination of creativity and structure involved in graphic design.

“It’s definitely a creative career to pursue, but I love that there are rules,” she said. “It’s artistic but also structured enough that it satisfies me.” 

Hancock has also landed a freelancing job with the large advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy.

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