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Reach for the stars: MU student receives astronaut scholarship

By Julia May, For The Miami Student

Michael Markesbery, a senior zoology major and neuroscience and entrepreneurship double minor, is one of 28 students across the nation to receive a $10,000 academic scholarship from the Astronaut Foundation Scholarship (ASF).

The first step to becoming a candidate for the scholarship begins with a nomination from a faculty member. Miami University associate professor of biology Paul Harding served as Markesbery's mentor and helped guide him through the scholarship application process.

According to ASF, in order to be considered, nominees must be at least a second year college student, have excellent grades and have conducted a considerable amount of lab and research work in their field.

Students who are in the engineering, natural or applied science and mathematics fields are considered for this award, to hold true to the organization's mission statement, which is rooted in the importance of science and technology in society.

"On a personal level, the scholarship means a lot because these very famous astronauts and scholars believe in you and what you're doing," said Markesbery.

Markesbery's interest in research began his first year at Miami and since then has only flourished.

"In Dr. Harding's lab, I studied brown adipose tissue's potential to combat obesity, diabetes and even cancer," Markesbery said.

Brown adipose tissue, also known as brown fat, is responsible for producing heat in the body. Humans lose most of their brown fat by adulthood and only contain small amounts in the shoulders and by the heart. Through modifying the fat cells, Markesbery and Harding hope to eventually eradicate type-two diabetes, obesity and cancer.

Fulfilling his minor in entrepreneurship, Markesbery has been working on developing a line of outdoors jackets with a modern twist. The goal of the jacket is to be able to use it in extreme winter conditions without having to layer up underneath. The company's name, Lukla, is actually titled after a base camp at Mount Everest.

"We should be starting a kickstarter campaign in mid October for the line, it's pretty cool to be doing on the side."

Markesbery has already acquired a patent on his design and the jackets would feature insulation from AeroGel, an efficient thermal insulator.

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In the near future, Markesbery hopes to pursue an M.D. as an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases and conditions related to the endocrine glands and the hormones they release.