MSU Goldwater Scholars selected for 2024 Astronaut Scholars Class

David C. Heson
Portrait of Annamarie Thompson
Annamarie Thompson 
Portrait of Alyssa Williams
Alyssa Williams 

Photos by Grace Cockrell
Contact: Carl Smith

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Three exceptional seniors from Mississippi State University have gained the prestigious title of Astronaut Scholar.

Receiving the esteemed Astronaut Scholarship are David C. Heson from Guntown, Annamarie L. Thompson from Trussville, Alabama, and Alyssa Williams from Franklin, Tennessee. These students have demonstrated outstanding achievements in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and are recognized among the nation’s top scholars in these fields.

They have been selected as part of the 2024 Astronaut Scholars Class by the national Astronaut Foundation, comprising 71 outstanding students. Each scholar is awarded up to $15,000 and becomes a part of a lifelong network of professional mentors and fellow researchers.

Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum commended the hard work and dedication of David, Annamarie, and Alyssa, highlighting their excellence in academics and extracurricular activities. He expressed his appreciation for the exceptional faculty and staff who have supported these scholars during their time at MSU.

These three scholars, all affiliated with MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College, are recognized as the 23rd, 24th, and 25th national Barry Goldwater Scholars, a prestigious honor awarded to a select group of students excelling in natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics programs across the country.

David Heson, a Hassell Franklin Presidential Scholar, is pursuing majors in physics, mathematics, and computer science, with minors in statistics and German. He plans to undertake a doctoral program in computational-theoretical condensed matter and aspires to become a physics professor at a large public university.

Anna Thompson, an MSU Provost Scholar, is majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in mathematics. She is also involved in MSU’s MBA Venture Pathway Program, augmenting her STEM studies with a business course each semester. Her goal is to pursue a doctoral degree in cancer biology, focusing on translational and clinical pediatric oncology research related to brain tumors at a leading medical research and teaching facility.

Williams, a double major in biochemistry and psychology, with a minor in cognitive science, plans to concentrate on cognitive neuroscience during her doctoral studies. Her research will explore learning and memory through computational modeling and neuroimaging, and she intends to teach at the university level.

Astronaut Scholarships are awarded to outstanding junior and senior students intending to advance research or contribute to their respective fields following the completion of their degrees. Scholars are chosen based on their initiative, creativity, and exceptional performance within their chosen disciplines. In addition to financial support, they benefit from networking opportunities with astronauts, alumni, and industry leaders, participation in professional development programs, including the Michael Collins Family Professional Development Program, and a funded trip to attend ASF’s Innovators Week and Gala in Houston, Texas.

Mississippi State University’s nominations for the Astronaut Scholarship are overseen by the Office of Prestigious External Scholarships and its Director, David Hoffman, who also serves as an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures. For more details, contact Hoffman or visit Further information about the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and the Astronaut Scholarship can be found at

Discover more about Mississippi State University’s College of Arts and Sciences and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at and, respectively.

Explore the opportunities provided by MSU’s Shackouls Honors College online at

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