Atmospheric researcher joins the ranks of the astronaut scholarship holders of the UVA


Jacob Bushey researches the effects of ozone on transpiration, carbon assimilation and photosynthesis in plants and can now brainstorm with his fellow astronauts.

Bushey, of Virginia Beach, an emerging fourth year Environmental and Chemistry University of Virginia with an undeclared minor in Religious Studies, has been named an Astronaut Fellow. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation commemorates the legacy of America’s pioneering astronauts by awarding scholarships of up to $ 15,000 to students studying science, technology, engineering, or math to do research or advance their field upon graduation.

“It is well documented that ozone, a pollutant found in the troposphere, damages plants and reduces their photosynthetic capacity,” said Bushey. “What the researchers don’t know is how this damage occurs, that’s the current focus of my work.”

Bushey was originally drawn to this topic because of its connection to atmospheric chemistry.

“Humans are responsible for the immense changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, which have led to reduced air quality and climate change,” said Bushey. “These changes have complications for human health, agriculture, the economy, extreme weather events, etc., and have a major impact on society. In order to better anticipate these wave effects, scientists need to understand the basic mechanisms that control the absorption of these pollutants into the biosphere. “

Bushey’s work attempts to answer a very specific question that will improve understanding of how plants affect and are affected by changing climates. He is eager to discuss his work with other astronaut scientists.

“The biggest impact meeting other scientists will have on my work is the opportunity to discuss and brainstorm with them,” he said. “I have no idea who I’ll meet or if they’re working on something similar, but I know these discussions will help me better articulate my work and allow me to hear new ideas from some talented student researchers.”

As an astronaut scholar, Bushey understands that he has joined a dedicated group.

“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to connect with the talented students in my cohort as well as with other alumni,” said Bushey. “These students will all be leaders in their respective fields and I can say they are all motivated and interesting people. I look forward to the opportunity to get to know you. We will all try to develop these professional relationships at the beginning of our careers. “

James N. Galloway, the Sidman P. Poole Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, focuses his biogeochemical research on the natural and anthropogenic controls of chemical cycles at the watershed, regional, and global levels. He knows Bushey’s research and knows him as a standout.

“I met Jacob in late August 2018 during the first meeting of the Environmental Sciences’ Resources and Environment program with 140 students enrolled,” said Galloway. “With such a large class, it often takes several lectures to establish connections with individual students. This was not the case with Jacob. After the first lecture, he came up with a few questions about the course material. He was really curious about the topics that were discussed in class. This first meeting in late August turned into weekly meetings on a variety of topics – from how he could get involved in research to how environmental science can be used to solve global problems. “

For Galloway, Bushey’s promise has borne fruit.

“Jacob has grown in science, research and service,” said Galloway. “He’s one of the most curious people I know, and he follows that curiosity with an enthusiasm to explore new ideas that arise from that initial curiosity. He is a pleasure to work with and I have no doubt that he will remain curious his entire life. “

In addition to his work in chemistry and the environment, Bushey is also interested in the connection between subjects through religion and pursues this through religious studies, which he wants to declare as a minor.

“My interest in religious studies was originally purely personal,” said Bushey. “I am a Christian and I chose UVA partly because I wanted the opportunity to learn more about my faith from an academic perspective. When I was on tour I met a student who had studied chemistry and religion as dual subjects, which was my original plan. It’s a unique combination, so meeting another student with these interests gave me the confidence that I would have the opportunity to explore both disciplines at UVA. “

This personal interest has taken on a professional dimension.

“Courses like Religion, Ethics & Global Environment have helped me see the connection between my STEM courses and religion,” said Bushey. “I want to help start a dialogue about the similarities between faith and science and continue it throughout my career. I think both the Christian and scientific communities should share the common goal of planetary responsibility, and I look forward to the opportunity to bring these two perspectives to the table. “

An Echols Fellow and College Science Fellow, Bushey is a member of the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship and UVA’s Club Running program. He is also the recipient of a 2021 NASA Virginia Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research STEM grant and a Raven Society grant. As a graduate of Ocean Lakes High School, Bushey plans to study abroad and earn a Ph.D. in atmospheric chemistry or a related field.

“My current career goal is to become a professor at a research university so that I can continue to pursue topics that interest me, do research with a noticeable impact on society and also supervise and teach up-and-coming young scientists,” said Bushey.

“I had the pleasure of working with Jacob this year as he applied for multiple scholarships,” said Brett Evans, senior fellow at the Office of Citizen Scholar Development, UVA’s scholarship office. “In addition to an infectious enthusiasm for his research, Jacob has an unusual dedication to the inner work of self-reflection and writing that these grants – and a career in research – require. I couldn’t be happier for him. It is a pleasure to know him and I look forward to seeing what he will do in the future. “


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