A West Virginia University junior who hopes to someday run a NASA center has become WVU s 19th Truman Scholar.

Morgantown native Emily Calandrelli is one of 65 college students nationwide to receive a prestigious Truman Scholarship for graduate study. The honor is reserved for students with exceptional leadership potential, intellectual ability and the desire to make a difference.

Calandrelli was chosen from among 595 nominees and is the only student from a West Virginia college or university to receive the honor this year. A contingent of University officials recently caught up with her during her Russian class to break the good news.

I was sitting in class, and here comes Dr. Majid (Jaraiedi) through the door,Calandrelli recalled,and following him are one of my engineering professors and my mom, the president of the University and Dr. (Bob) DiClerico, my Truman adviser. It was a large group of very influential people in my lifeThere were balloons and flowers, and I was so nervous and shakingI got choked up. (See the video athttp://www.wvu.edu.)

It was such a wonderful surprise, and the presentation was the most exciting thing to ever happen to me,she said.Its really exciting to represent the University this way. It (the scholarship) means that I truly have the opportunity and duty to dedicate my time to public service and doing my part to help those around me. This money opens up my options for a number of graduate schools and will help my family so much.

A self-describedhard-core NASA junkie,Calandrelli is on track to receive a dual degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering in May 2010. She credits her success to that extra push from her family and mentors at the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

My parents and God are the No. 1 supporters in my life,Calandrelli said,and I cant thank them enough for what they have given me. Dr. Majid Jaraiedi and Candy Cordwell at the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium provide all the NASA opportunities I have been involved with. Dr. DiClerico and Lisa DeFrank-Cole (WVU Honors College) were my Truman Scholar advisers and were wonderfully helpful throughout the process. And, of course, President (Mike) Garrison, my professors and the College of Engineering have provided a great pool of opportunitiesthat make me proud to be a Mountaineer.

Calandrelli follows a long tradition of academic excellence in the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources that includes Rhodes and Goldwater scholars, as well as USA Today All-Academic Team members.

I always heard growing up that we had a good college for engineering, and it has really proven to have great teachers with impressive backgrounds,she said.Its incredibly inspiring to hear what theyve done with their lives.

We are pleased and proud that Emily has received this prestigious and much-deserved honor,said Gene Cilento, Glen Hiner Dean of the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.She clearly has an extremely bright future ahead of her.

Calandrellis plans include obtaining masters and doctoral degrees in aeronautics/astronautics engineering at an Ivy League school.

Ive always liked math,she said,and that led me to engineering. And Ive always been in love with the stars.

Her goal is to work on missions to Mars or the moon as a NASA engineer.

If Calandrellis undergraduate achievements are any indication, then anything is within her reach. The straight-A student has racked up many honors: NASA Space Grant Scholar (August 2006-present), the Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarship (August 2005-present), the PROMISE Scholarship (August 2005-present) and the WVU Presidents List (five semesters and counting).

Calandrelli also has the distinction of having her undergraduate research published, and she was the runner-up in the Star Symposium Poster Presentation for Research in West Virginia last August. She interned at the NASA Glenn Research Center and is active in the WVU Honor College and Sigma Gamma Tau (aerospace) and Tau Beta Pi (engineering) honoraries.

Calandrellis campus activities focus on her academic interests and desire to help others. She leads WVU s Microgravity Research Team, which is headed to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston this summer to conduct experiments above the earth in zero gravity.

When the Microgravity Research Team is grounded, members visit local schools to encourage students to pursue math and science opportunities. Calandrelli said its an opportunity to talk to girls, in particular, about studying in a male-dominated field.

Women are really needed in the industry,she said.They can do just as much as men. Some girls just need an extra push to get to it. Its a male-dominated field. Well have to do something about that.

Calandrelli is also active in SCUBA and the Astronomy Club, and she previously served on the Freshman Engineering Council.

Her community service activities range from mentoring kids at the Boys and Girls Club and organizing recycling efforts at her apartment complex to working with St. Jude Hospitals Partners in Hope campaign.

Calandrellis public service efforts extend far beyond the borders of West Virginia and the U.S. She is the publicity coordinator and co-fundraising chair for a student organization called Engineers Without Borders that spent spring break building a greenhouse for a family in Mexico. The new group at WVU challenges members to use their skills to improve the lives of people in developing countries. Engineers Without Bordersnext destination is Nicaragua, where students will design a water filtration system for a center where children receive nutritious meals.

When Calandrelli isnt busy with classes and research projects, she enjoys cheering on the Mountaineers at football games.

Her parents are Kimberly and Bradley Calandrelli.

Each Truman Scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Recipients must be in the top quarter of their class and be committed to careers in government or the not-for-profit sector.

The 2008 Truman Scholars will gather May 13 for a leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., and receive their awards during a special ceremony May 18 at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo.