Hailing from Amravati in Maharashtra, 21-year-old Sonal Baberwal, is the first winner of the Kalpana Chawla Scholarship Project at International Space University (ISU).
She has been selected and funded as its first exceptional Indian post-graduate student for the university’s Space Studies Program at the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) in Ireland.
Established to honor Indian-American Astronaut Dr. Kalpana Chawla, The Kalpana Chawla Scholarship Project at ISU is focused on developing strong technical and space leadership qualities with talented Indian women.
After completing her schooling at Mount Carmel High School, Sonal pursued an engineering degree in Electronics and Telecommunication from the Sipna College of Engineering and Technology, Amravati, under Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University.
Her broad interests lie in robotics, Pluto, space debris and environmental aspects and also the field of Space and Art. She got in contact with NASA astronaut Nicole Stott and Leena Bokil and has made several presentations on space-related topics in India. She is also credited with winning several chess tournaments.
The purpose of the scholarship and endowment is to provide funding to Indian nationals to attend ISU’s Space Studies Program. “The goal is to attract talented young Indian post-graduate students with backgrounds in science, medicine, and other space-related areas of focus, who also share Dr. Chawla’s selfless and passionate pursuit of science and excellence,” states the report on their website.
Michael Potter, one of the scholarship founders said, “This is a historic moment to achieve an international impact with a few select, but very talented Indian post-graduate students. India will continue to play on the international stage, as it moves forward leading the development of space technologies and activities.”
Founded in 1987, ISU has had 4200 students graduating from over 100 countries. The ISU claims the scholarship is a commitment to creating the building blocks that are necessary for India to maintain its leadership in the global space community and marketplace.