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Mack Cleveland
Mack Cleveland, a materials science and engineering student, is a recipient of the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

Mack Cleveland, an undergraduate student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, is a crew member of the 2022 Astronaut Scholar Class. As one of the students selected, he was awarded the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship for use in future research endeavors. 

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) provides the scholarship to a handpicked group of students each year who are pursuing advances in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. ASF’s mission is to continue the United States’ legacy in innovation by developing world-class researchers.  

“The scholarship will help me with the last year of undergraduate studies and offers me an amazing opportunity to network with other students who are passionate about research,” said Cleveland. 

Now a senior in the department, Cleveland chose to study materials science and engineering because of the overlap between physics and chemistry that gives rise to materials critical to solving outstanding engineering problems. 

His research uses atomistic simulations to study the formation energies of point defects in amorphous silicon, which can be used in solar cells and liquid crystal displays. He conducted this research under Dr. Michael J. Demkowicz, associate professor in the department, for several semesters and they recently published their findings on amorphous silicon in Physical Review Materials

In addition to his research, Cleveland is the editor-in-chief of Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate JournalThrough this medium, he promotes outstanding and creative undergraduate research publications while cultivating a diverse community of young scholars.

“I am interested in research because I enjoy the thrill of discovering the beautiful way nature works,” he said. “I am driven to research because I hope that the knowledge my research creates can help safeguard our national security and prevent disastrous engineering failures by providing more resilient materials.” 

Cleveland is also a university scholar and vice election commissioner for the Student Government Association. 

As a recipient of the scholarship, he will receive an expense-paid trip to Orlando, Florida, for the Innovators Week and Gala featuring the Neil Armstrong Award of Excellence, an opportunity to present and represent Texas A&M at the Scholar Technical Conference, extensive access to renowned mentors, membership in the Astronaut Scholar Honor Society and several other benefits.  

As Cleveland commences takeoff from his undergraduate studies, he plans to work toward a doctoral degree in materials studies while continuing his research on developing new materials for harsh environments and improving degradation prediction. He would like to eventually pursue a career in materials science and engineering. 

“I am looking forward to graduate school, where I can get experience tackling more challenging scientific problems and paving the way for technologies that will shape the future,” he said. “The Astronaut Scholarship is a key step along that path, enabling me to continue my current research and connecting me with a community of scholars who are inventing gamechangers in the materials science and engineering field.”