Statler College establishes Microgravity Research Team Alumni Scholarship in Honor of Dr. John Kuhlman
The Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources recently created the Microgravity Research Team Alumni Scholarship in honor of Professor Emeritus, John Kuhlman. Prominent alumni of the College spearheaded the creation of the new fund to support the next generation of aerospace leaders from West Virginia University.
Story by Brittany Furbee, Communications Specialist
Photos by Paige Nesbit, Director of Marketing
WVU MRT is an undergraduate course that is currently offered as a technical elective every semester that attracts high-performing mechanical and aerospace engineering students. The program has been established since 2000, with initial support from NASA WV Space Grant Consortium and the Statler College Dean’s office, and yearly support from and the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. The team focuses on promoting aerospace investigations in a reduced gravity environment.
Before coming to WVU as a faculty member in 1985, Kuhlman received his bachelors, masters, and doctoral degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1970, 1973 and 1975 respectively. He worked as a professor in the MAE department for more than 38 years, during which time he served as the co-instructor alongside former Statler Professor Donald Gray for the first seven years before becoming the primary instructor for the WVU MRT undergraduate course.
His involvement with WVU MRT left a lasting impression on several of his students, who wanted to pay it forward and support future students interested in the program.
“John Kuhlman was perhaps the most influential professor I had throughout my entire educational career - I simply would not be where I am without him,” said Emily Calandrelli, a 2010 graduate of the Statler College who is the host and an executive producer of Xploration Outer Space and Emily's Wonder Lab, as well as the author of several children's books. “WVU MRT was the reason I chose to go into aerospace engineering in the first place, and because of Kuhlman's expert leadership, delegation of work, trust in his students and positive demeanor - my MRT experience was one of the most joyful and impactful experiences I had as a student.”
Calandrelli, along with Kerri Phillips, a 2007 and 2011 graduate of the Statler College who currently serves as the Air & Missile Defense Sector Chief Scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, and Charlie Battleson, a 2004 graduate of the Statler College who supports the Naval Air Systems Command as a program manager at Mantech, got together to establish the MRT Alumni Scholarship fund as part of WVU’s 6th annual Day of Giving that was held on March 22, 2023.
“In Fall 2022, I contacted a small group of MRT alums, including Emily, Charlie and Kerri.” said Jason Gross, chair and associate professor of MAE and a former student in the MRT program. “With their help, we created a list of about 25 alumni and co-signed a letter asking for support of the new scholarship. Over a dozen alums quickly responded and the fund reached about $15,000 in 2022.”
The goal was to raise $25,000 in order to convert the fund into an endowment that would distribute scholarship funds to students once a year. To complete the endowment, the MAE alumni, visiting committee, distinguished alumni academy, faculty and staff completed a Day of Giving challenge where $5,000 was raised before the event and more than $5,000 needed to reach their goal was matched on the day of the event.
“It's exciting to have many of the great students that I have been able to mentor in the MRT project courses at WVU work to establish a scholarship in my name to help support future students in the program,” said Kuhlman. “I hope that this scholarship will help WVU undergraduate students that participate in MRT to achieve their educational goals and earn their degrees.”
As a result of the generous support of the Statler College community, the permanent endowment will now provide a deserving student in the MRT program with a $1,000 scholarship annually.
“WVU MRT was my first experience working an engineering project from start to finish: writing a proposal, designing an experiment, building the test setup, running preliminary tests, executing the test (in microgravity), performing data analysis, and writing the final report,” said Phillips. “My experience with WVU MRT was honestly life changing. It was one of my favorite college experiences – getting a glimpse into research and experiencing weightlessness like an astronaut, which was a dream of mine. I want other students to have this opportunity and for Dr. Kuhlman’s legacy of changing lives to live on.”
“My experience in WVU MRT was my first exposure to project management,” said Battleson. “We didn’t call it that at the time, but it had an enormous influence on my career interests, and it energized me. The MRT program has always been popular among students at WVU, but it requires resources to design and implement the experiments, to travel to Houston to execute the experiment and even to help students stay in Morgantown during the summer months to prepare. I’m hoping this scholarship program will minimize or eliminate the financial burden on the students and the department to foster the most optimal learning experience possible.”
All gifts to the MRT Alumni Scholarship are made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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