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Orono junior Belinda Neset working on a stratospheric ballon flight, which was conducted while Neset was working at the University of Minnesota’s Areospace Engineering Department.(Submitted photo)

Orono junior Belinda Neset was recently awarded the Minnesota Scholar of Distinction Award for Science from the Minnesota Department of Education. The program awards distinguished achievement by highly motivated, self-directed students. Neset has been working at the University of Minnesota’s Aerospace Engineering Department with Dr. James Flaten since her freshman year. Her first project involved a stratospheric balloon flight which was conducted with the University of Minnesota’s ballooning team. The experiment compared the results of Geiger counters and dosimeters as they detected radiation in the upper atmosphere. Neset designed and built a payload for the flight and collected data. The second project this year compared a series of low-cost photometers to determine which photometer would work best in stratospheric conditions. Her research analyzed the results about how Earth and its atmosphere is changing.

Neset has always been passionate about science. She said that her eighth-grade teacher, Ms. Brinkhaus, “ignited her passion for science” and “all the other teachers at Orono have been amazing and incredibly supportive.” Neset is a junior and already thinking about the future, “I appreciate science because it is based in fact, yet there are still so many unknowns. I want to study aerospace engineering because I believe that there are so many opportunities to make discoveries that will have endless possibilities for Earth. I also am interested in how our Earth is changing and how we can harness those changes and adapt to them.”

Neset has also been awarded these great honors: 3M Young Inventor Award 2019, 3M Commercial Solutions Division Award 2019, Award from Meteorological Society 2019, NASA Earth System Science Award 2019 and 2020, United States Navy and Marine Award from the Office of Naval Research 2020, United States Air Force Award 2020, and the Graduate Women in Science Award 2020.

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