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Syracuse University student Christopher Tarolli awarded prestigious Astronaut Scholarship
Syracuse University student Christopher Tarolli awarded prestigious Astronaut ScholarshipJuly 12, 2006Carol K. Masiclatclkim@syr.edu
As the Space Shuttle Discovery astronauts conducted their third spacewalk on July 12 to test heat shield repair techniques, a student at Syracuse University planned his future, which will be supported in part by former astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle programs. SU senior Christopher Tarolli has been named a 2006 Astronaut Scholar by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF).
Created by the Mercury 7 astronauts in 1984, the foundation fosters space science education through scholarship awards. Tarolli was one of 18 students chosen nationwide for a $10,000 scholarship. To date, the ASF has awarded more than $2.3 million in scholarships to more than 200 students nationwide.
“The Astronaut Foundation represents a very prestigious organization with a wonderful philosophy,” says Tarolli, a 20-year-old dual major in chemistry and Spanish. “The foundation was set up to encourage the advancement of science and to keep the United States at the forefront of science and technology. My research now is involving imaging DNA replication origins. We are hoping to be able to apply my results to stem cell research, one of the most exciting and promising fields today.”
Tarolli, of East Syracuse, has been interested in chemistry since high school, when an exceptional chemistry teacher ignited his interest in the subject. Since then, he has considered studying various areas of chemistry, including organic chemistry and biochemistry. Last summer, he worked in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and became fascinated by biochemistry. This past winter, Tarolli began working with Professor David Gilbert of the biochemistry and molecular biology department at SUNY Upstate Medical University. He will continue his work in Gilbert’s lab this summer and through the upcoming academic year.
When he’s not studying chemistry, Tarolli loves to sing. He is a member of First Year Players (FYP), a student-run musical theatre company at SU. FYP gives first-year and transfer non-drama majors the opportunity to participate in an annual spring musical and provides production experience to undergraduate students. This year, Tarolli will act as one of the group’s two producers and will lead the organization. He’s also a member of Orange Appeal, SU’s only all-male a cappella group. In his sophomore year, Tarolli sang with the University Singers and the Hendricks Chapel Choir.
His interest in Spanish inspired him to take a semester abroad in Spain last fall. “As a Spanish major, this was really rewarding because not only was I able to see Europe, I was able to develop my Spanish skills and am now nearly fluent,” Tarolli says. “I think it’s very important to be aware of the language because of the increasing population of native Spanish speakers in our country, especially if I’m hoping to go into a service field.”
“Chris has been part of such a wide variety of campus activities, from undergraduate research to performing musical ensembles, including a medley of songs for Billy Joel at last year’s Commencement,” says chemistry professor James Spencer. “He’s a very diligent, gifted and enthusiastic person who works very hard but is gentle and thoughtful in his interactions with others. I was impressed by his ability to push his own comfort zones and remain interested in broadening his understanding not only of chemistry but also of the greater world.” Spencer acted as academic advisor to Tarolli for his first two years at SU and nominated him for the scholarship. While SU students have been selected Astronaut Scholars in the past, the recipients have traditionally come from the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. Tarolli is the first student from The College of Arts and Sciences to receive the award.
As for the future, Tarolli has set his sights on further education, applying to medical programs, graduate programs and M.D.-Ph.D. programs. As he continues on his path, Tarolli is grateful for the scholarship and enthusiastic about how it will contribute to his future. Says Tarolli: “I think the Astronaut Scholarship program is essential for our country to continue to fund and encourage research in all fields due to the scientific climate of the world today.”