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USC Dornsife Undergrad Named Astronaut Scholar

Hall-of-fame astronaut and USC alumnus Jerry Carr presented mathematics and physics major Simca Bouma with a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

By Robert Perkins and Michelle Salzman
October 5, 2011

Skylab astronaut and USC alumnus Jerry Carr presented Simca Bouma, a USC Dornsife student majoring in mathematics and physics, with a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest monetary award given in the United States to science and engineering undergraduate students based solely on merit. Photo by Jie Gu.

Skylab astronaut and USC alumnus Jerry Carr presented Simca Bouma, a USC Dornsife student majoring in mathematics and physics, with a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest monetary award given in the United States to science and engineering undergraduate students based solely on merit. Photo by Jie Gu.

Skylab astronaut and USC alumnus Jerry Carr presented USC Dornsife student Simca Bouma with a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) during a public presentation and ceremony. The event was held Oct. 3 on USC’s University Park campus.

“Simca is a clear leader in mathematics and physics at USC,” said Carr. “She is a prime example of everything an Astronaut Scholar is supposed to be: intelligent, perseverant and destined for greatness. As a Trojan, I am especially proud to have the opportunity to present this award to such a worthy USC student.”

Bouma is a senior majoring in mathematics and physics. She has an interest in particle physics and quantum mechanics and plans to pursue a doctorate in theoretical physics after she earns her undergraduate degree. This would allow Bouma to do two things about which she is passionate: continue the research she approaches with great zeal and to educate and inspire the next generation of scientists, something she already does as a peer tutor at USC. In her spare time, Bouma enjoys bicycling, cooking and playing acoustic guitar.

Bouma said receiving the scholarship was a “huge honor.”

“I pretty much owe this to the professors that have been guiding me through school for the last three years,” she said.

The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest monetary award given in the United States to science and engineering undergraduate students based solely on merit. Twenty-six of these prestigious awards were dispersed this year through the ASF to outstanding college students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math. More than $3 million has been awarded in scholarships to date. Bouma is the first Astronaut Scholar selected from USC.

“I'm delighted that Simca has been named as USC's first recipient of the Astronaut Scholarship,” said Gene Bickers, vice provost for undergraduate programs and professor of physics and astronomy in USC Dornsife. “She has already accomplished great things in her coursework and in her internships at CERN and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. I think she has a brilliant career ahead in scientific research, and I look forward to following her accomplishments.”

While at USC, Carr shared his experiences of spending more than 84 days living and working in space on the Skylab 4 mission, in addition to presenting the award.

Carr, who earned his B.S. in mechanical engineering from USC Viterbi in 1954, served as Commander of Skylab 4, the third and final manned flight to the Skylab space station. He and Command Module Pilot Bill Pogue and Science Pilot Ed Gibson were launched in their Apollo capsule on November 16, 1973. The astronauts took four two-man spacewalks, with the main goal of each to change film in the telescope cameras. Carr made three of the walks, totaling 15 hours 48 minutes outside the lab. After what was then a record 84 days in space, Carr, Pogue and Gibson bid farewell to Skylab and returned to Earth on February 8, 1974. They had circled the globe 1,214 times, traveled 34.5 million miles and brought back 1,718 pounds of film, data and biomedical specimens for scientific study.

Bouma said she enjoyed the opportunity to share her Trojan experience with Carr and hear him talk about his adventures.

“It was incredibly exciting and inspiring,” she said. “I don’t know if this goes for all science students, but I get really excited whenever people start talking about space and exploring different frontiers. Getting to hear him discuss the research they were doing up at Skylab was phenomenal.”