Mikayla Harris, an HBCU student at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, received a $15,000 scholarship after winning the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship Foundation award. As she applied for the award, the scholar student was focused on the need to increase the representation of Black women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“I wanted to apply to represent Morgan State as well as Black women in STEM. There is not enough biomedical research that includes Black people, people of color and other minority groups,” the senior biology student said in a press release.
Harris credits the university’s Student Research Center for inspiring her to create research projects on her own and for helping her to secure the astronaut scholarship.
“I want to emphasize how grateful I am for Morgan,” Harris said. “Morgan has definitely prepared me for opportunities like this scholarship and upon graduation, I will be prepared for opportunities to pursue what I really am interested in, which is helping my community and underrepresented individuals.”
The senior from the School of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences plans to graduate a year early in 2022 and pursue an MD-PhD degree while studying more about racial health disparities. Part of her study will focus on female infertility.
Harris, one of 60 students from 44 universities who were chosen to receive the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation award, has also earned the Armstrong Award of Excellence. In addition, she has been inducted into the national Astronaut Scholar Honor Society.
The star student will soon participate in a full-year professional mentoring program. Harris is the second consecutive Morgan State University student to win the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation award, which is given to top-performing junior and senior students in the field of STEM. The award was established by the Mercury Astronauts in 1984.
A report published by the Pew Research Center in April concluded that Black and Hispanic researchers are still significantly underrepresented in STEM. According to the data, Black workers make up 9% of employed adults in STEM. Similarly, Hispanic workers make up 8% of those working in STEM.