An Indiana County student attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania received the 2023 Patricia Hilliard Robertson Memorial Scholarship for Outstanding Female Science Student.

From left, Dean of the IUP John J. and Char Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Steve Hovan; 2023 Dr. Patricia Hilliard Robertson Scholarship recipient Selena Blough; Ilse Hilliard

The award was presented to Selena Blough, a junior biology major, from Johnstown. She is a 2014 graduate of Greater Johnstown Senior High School. She and her husband, Nathan Cover, are the parents of a daughter, Callie Cover.

“This scholarship really helped to open my eyes to possibilities for my future,” Blough said. “Knowing about the accomplishments of Dr. Hilliard Robertson makes me very proud to have been selected for this scholarship; this is one of the biggest honors of my life.”

The Dr. Patricia Hilliard Robertson scholarship was established as a living legacy for Patty Hilliard Robertson, a 1980 graduate of Homer-Center High School and a 1985 biology graduate of IUP who died May 24, 2001, in Houston from injuries sustained in the crash of a private plane at Wolfe Air Park in Manvel, Texas. Several members of Hilliard Robertson’s family, including her mother, Ilse Hilliard, currently live in the Indiana area.

“This scholarship is a living memorial that keeps Patty’s memory and legacy alive,” Ilsa Hilliard said. “It also represents her values, education, and a life full of activities and adventure. I find it deeply, profoundly moving that IUP continues to highlight her in this way. It is very meaningful.” Ilsa Hilliard worked as IUP faculty member in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology from 1985 to 2001.

Hilliard Robertson received the Distinguished Alumni Award from IUP in 2000.

Following her graduation from IUP, upon completion of a medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1989, Robertson fulfilled the requirements for a three-year residency in family medicine and was certified by the American Board of Family Practice.

Pursuing medicine further, she was one of only two selected for a two-year fellowship in Space Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch and NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, which she completed in 1997. She joined NASA's Flight Medicine Clinic at the Johnson Space Center in 1997, prior to being selected to be an astronaut.

Patricia Hilliard Robertson

Robertson was a member of the astronaut class of 1998 and was assigned as a crew support astronaut for the Expedition Two crew on board the International Space Station. In that role, she served as an interface between the Mission Control Center Flight Control Team and the Astronaut Office on issues related to the Expedition Two crew and, along with other astronauts, coordinated activities on the ground for the three crew members in space.

In addition to being a medical doctor, Robertson was a multi-engine-rated flight instructor and avid aerobatic pilot with more than 1,500 hours of flight time.

The Patricia Hilliard Robertson Center for Aviation Medicine at the Indiana Regional Medical Center was named in her honor in 2009.

The Hilliard Robertson scholarship is given annually during the university’s Research Appreciation Week as part of the IUP Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Summit.

The 2023 Summit program continued the tradition of a poster session by women scientists. Speakers for the event were Lindsay Matolyak, a 2012 IUP chemistry graduate and senior research chemist at PPG Industries, Pittsburgh, and Deanne Snavely, dean emerita of the Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Research Appreciation Week events included the annual Scholars Forum, featuring more than 190 IUP and high school students, and the Three-Minute Thesis competition, an event for graduate students to present their original scholarship to a panel of judges in just three minutes with the aid of only one static PowerPoint slide as a visual aid.