Alexander Metcalf Named 2021-22 Astronaut Scholar – Syracuse University News

Alexander Metcalf, a senior aerospace engineering major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, has been named 2021-22 Astronaut Scholar by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF).

Founded by the Mercury 7 astronauts, the foundation awards scholarships to students in their junior or senior year who are pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering or mathematics and who plan to pursue research or advance their field upon completion of their final degree. Nominees are selected based on their exemplary academic performance, ingenuity and unique aptitude for research. Metcalf is one of 60 students from 44 colleges and universities around the country to receive the award this year.

Alexander Metcalf

In addition to funding for educational expenses of up to $15,000, the scholarship includes the opportunity for scholars to represent their institutions and present their research at the Scholar Technical Conference; professional mentoring for one year by scholarship alumni, a C-suite executive or an astronaut; the opportunity to participate in a professional development program and foundation events; and membership in the Astronaut Scholar Honor Society.

Metcalf will receive the award during the ASF Innovators Week and Gala held Aug. 11-15 in Orlando, Florida. 

“I am honored to have been recognized as an Astronaut Scholar by the Astronaut Scholar Foundation. I’d like to thank my primary research mentor, Jeongmin Ahn; the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA); and my family for their support throughout my college career,” says Metcalf. “I hope to leverage this award in the future as I pursue additional educational and research opportunities.”

The Astronaut Scholarship is the latest in a series of nationally competitive scholarships Metcalf has received. Earlier this year, he was selected for a 2021 Goldwater Scholarship and for a U.S. Department of Defense SMART Scholarship.

“Alex’s strong and varied research profile, as well as his extraordinary academic record, made him an outstanding nominee for the Astronaut Scholarship,” says Jolynn Parker, director of the CFSA. “We’re thrilled that this award will support him in the important work he aims to do in aeronautics.”

Metcalf has sought out a range of research opportunities during his time at Syracuse. In summer 2019, he interned at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, developing computer code capable of performing mechanism assembly for the software Engineering Sketch Pad under the advisement of John Dannenhoffer, associate professor and aerospace engineering undergraduate program director.

He also pursued a bioengineering independent study research project during the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters overseen by Pun To (Douglas) Yung, associate teaching professor of biomedical and chemical engineering and bioengineering undergraduate program director. Project Footstrike focused on creating a computerized shoe insole capable of measuring a user’s heel strike and toe off mechanics during activity. Metcalf was the lead computer coder for this project, which required him to write code in C++ and MATLAB coding languages with the aim of increasing accuracy of the heel strike and toe off mechanics measurements.

In summer 2020, Metcalf joined the Combustion and Energy Research laboratory of Jeongmin Ahn, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. There, he is currently working on a hybrid power train for small unmanned aerial vehicles.

This summer, Metcalf is working as a systems engineering intern for Honeywell’s aerospace sector. “I am very excited about working closely with real engineers who have years of industry experience. In the first two weeks of the internship, I have already learned so much,” Metcalf says. “Honeywell encourages its employees to be ‘future shapers,’ so I hope to embody that motto throughout my internship and as I complete my final year of undergraduate studies at Syracuse University.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Metcalf plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering with a focus on combustion, propulsion and aeronautics. “I want to work in a field that blends computational modeling and simulation with real-world testing and engineering,” says Metcalf. “I am particularly interested in conducting research that will increase efficiency and reliability of the engineering systems that contribute to U.S. national security.”

As a university partner of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, Syracuse University can nominate two students for the Astronaut Scholarship each year. Interested students should contact the CFSA for information on the nomination process (; 315.443.2759). More information on the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation can be found on their website.