by Eric D. Lehman, Associate Professor, Communications Specialist
Two University of Bridgeport engineering students, Alberto Labrada and Nhat (Mark) Pham were both awarded their second NASA Connecticut Space Grant scholarships this year.
These grants of $3000 each are awarded by the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC), a federally mandated grant, internship, and scholarship program that is funded as a part of NASA Education. “Connecticut’s Space Grant program is trying to do whatever they can to encourage first-generation students to go into aerospace,” says Dr. Jani Pallis, who has been awarded faculty grants from CTSGC in the past.
Labrada first won a grant in Spring 2021, and now has again in 2022. “Alberto is a respectful and outstanding young professional with an excellent academic record and a bright future,” says his advisor in electrical engineering, Dr. Buket Barkana. “His motivation and desire for learning and contributing to the discipline and community are exceptional.” Though still an undergraduate, Labrada is currently working on two graduate-level research projects under Professor Barkana’s supervision and maintains a perfect GPA of 4.0.
“Thanks to this scholarship, I have been able to secure more time in my studies and to help out more with research at the school,” says Labrada. “The Engineering departments in our school allow a cross-disciplinary approach for our senior design project, allowing me and fellow student Nhat Pham to work together. This union of disciplines allowed for a successful design including both Electrical and Mechanical engineering.”
Mechanical engineering student Pham is graduating in May 2022 with his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and has been accepted into the M.S. in Mechanical Engineering at UB, while also working at Pratt and Whitney. He served as an assistant in Professor Junling Hu’s mechanical engineering classes and organized the campus American Society of Engineers section. “The quality of Mark’s work received praise from all faculty members in the ME department,” says Professor Hu. “He is mature and reliable on all the work we assigned him, and he was always the first one to respond to our request.”
“The scholarships have helped me invest more into my education and land a dream job at Pratt and Whitney,” says Pham. “NASA CTSGC has helped change the future for many students from disadvantaged backgrounds like myself.” The struggles many first-generation college students are facing have motivated Pham to help his fellow students succeed with their studies, share job opportunities, and help them develop essential skills for jobs. “He donated $1,000 to the ME department and got another $1,000 matching fund from his internship company to help less resourceful students,” says Professor Hu.
Both Labrada and Pham transferred to University of Bridgeport from Housatonic Community College, and both received transfer scholarships from the Space Grant to support that. Now both have received the undergraduate scholarships. “Perhaps the graduate scholarship is next!” says Dr. Pallis.
“Alberto Labrada and I are good friends,” says Pham. “And we’re doing projects together that promote cross-department cooperation.” That cooperation is part of what makes the UB School of Engineering so effective, and helps it create futures in the aerospace industry for young engineers.