WATCH: Titusville Native and UCF Senior Christopher Clifford Awarded Prestigious Astronaut Scholarship

Award Created in 1984 by Mercury 7 astronauts

SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Titusville native and University of Central Florida senior Christopher Clifford is one of only 52 college students in the nation awarded the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship in 2019.

Titusville native and University of Central Florida senior Christopher Clifford is one of only 52 college students in the nation awarded the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship in 2019. (Jonathan Gabriel image)

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Titusville native and University of Central Florida senior Christopher Clifford is one of only 52 college students in the nation awarded the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship in 2019.

Created in 1984 by Mercury 7 astronauts, the scholarships recognize talented STEM students in their junior or senior year of college who intend to pursue research or advance their field after graduation. Since 1986, 37 UCF students have received the prestigious award.

This year, 52 scholarships were awarded to students from 38 universities across the United States. The 2019 recipients will be recognized Aug. 24 at the Innovators Gala in Washington, D.C.

Clifford, a junior studying electrical engineering, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 13 and has since made it part of his mission to help others like him.

He has been vice president of the T1@UCF club on campus and has conducted research on the disease at Mayo Clinic Rochester with Dr. Quinn Peterson and the AdventHealth Translational Research Institute for Diabetes and Metabolism under Dr. Anna Casu.

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During his first two years of college, he was a member of UCF’s Interventional Robotics Laboratory, working with Sam Song, an associate professor, on tactile displays to enhance group coordination.

Since 1986, 37 UCF students have received the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship award.

Clifford was previously named a Burnett Research Scholar, Integrated Learning Scholar, and Burr & Forman scholarship recipient. He said being named an Astronaut Scholar was a surprise.

“I am still taken aback,” he says. “All of these generous programs have enabled me to pursue research early in my undergraduate studies, which will benefit me when applying to graduate school. Most importantly, I have connected with mentors, even outside my discipline, through the honors college that have provided me guidance and support when I needed it most.”

His goals include pursuing a doctorate in biomedical engineering while continuing to search for a cure to diabetes. He says the Astronaut Scholarship has given him the confidence and resources to pursue those goals.

“I hope my experiences in undergrad will help me discern the best way I can apply myself for the benefit of diabetics and their families,” he says.

“There are brilliant engineers developing short-term solutions to diabetes such as insulin pumps, as well as developmental biologists persuading stem cells to differentiate into the cells destroyed by Type 1 diabetes. My job right now is to find where I fit in all of this.”

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