Student News

Award-winning summer: UK senior named Astronaut Scholar, DAAD RISE intern


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 4, 2023) — It has been an award-winning summer for one University of Kentucky senior — Isha Chauhan. The biology and Lewis Honors College student from La Grange, Kentucky, was named one of the country’s 68 prestigious Astronaut Scholarship recipients and completed a DAAD RISE research internship in Germany.

“These awards have given me the opportunity to connect with diverse groups of people and develop cross-cultural relationships,” Chauhan said. “I am so thankful to have received the chance to explore my future career through these unique experiences.”

As an Astronaut Scholar, Chauhan was awarded a scholarship of up to $15,000 from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF). The ASF Scholarship is presented annually to outstanding college students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).

A nonprofit organization, ASF was established by the Mercury Astronauts in 1984. Its goal is to aid the U.S. in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships for exceptional college students pursuing degrees in these fields. Since that time, astronauts from the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs have joined in this endeavor. UK students have earned more than $200,000 from the ASF since 1998.

In addition to being recognized as an Astronaut Scholar, Chauhan was selected to participate in Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) from the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD).

DAAD's RISE is a summer internship program for undergraduate students from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering. The internships give each student an opportunity to do research with one of Germany's top universities or research institutions. Around 300 students participate each summer. Chauhan’s summer research was in veterinary science.

The daughter of Vijay and Snehal Chauhan, Isha Chauhan has actively pursued science studies and research since high school.

“I have always had a passion for biology and have always been interested in its diverse range of subject matters from ecology to biochemistry,” said Chauhan, a 2022 Goldwater Scholar.

Co-founder of the Undergraduate Science Journal Club, she is currently pursuing undergraduate research studying cholesterol disorders in the UK College of Medicine. A Gaines Fellow, Chauhan previously participated in the Undergraduate Summer Training in Cardiovascular Research program and the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

Chauhan credits research mentor Gregory Graf, Ph.D., associate director of Saha Cardiovascular Research Center, as being incredibly influential in defining her future career and shaping her as a scientist.

“I am very thankful for his mentorship and guidance throughout my four years at UK. Moreover, all of my professors at UK have been extraordinary and have encouraged me in many ways. I am grateful to be surrounded by their support.”

Upon completion of her bachelor’s degree, Chauhan plans to pursue a D.V.M./Ph.D. and work with wildlife animals in the future.

About the UK Office of Nationally Competitive Awards

The UK Office of Nationally Competitive Awards assists current undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni in applying for external fellowships scholarships funded by sources (such as a nongovernment foundation or government agency) outside the university. These major awards honor exceptional students across the nation. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to begin work with the office's director, Pat Whitlow, well in advance of the scholarship deadline.

Interested in applying for DAAD RISE, mark your calendars now. This year’s application deadline for DAAD RISE is Nov. 30.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.