The 17th-ranked Knights won’t be the only stars on the field of Bright House Networks Stadium this Thursday.

University of Central Florida junior Richard Murdock will be at the center of the stadium’s galaxy during halftime of the 7:30 p.m. game against Rutgers to accept a $10,000 award from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

On hand to present the prize will be NASA astronaut Jerry Carr, who spent 84 days in space in 1973-74 as commander of the Skylab 4 mission. Each year, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation selects promising STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students from across the country for the merit-based award.

“Being an astronaut scholar is more than just a recognition to me; it is a responsibility,” said Murdock, a mechanical engineering major and student in the Burnett Honors College. “I am humbled that others see such a great potential in me to advance the STEM field in America and become a leader in my chosen field of study.”

Murdock is minoring in bioengineering and mathematics, and he spent the summer studying nanotechnology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He is currently working on a lab project focusing on magnetic nanoparticle dispersions and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering.

Murdock isn’t the first member of his family to reach for the stars at UCF. His older brother, Heardley, graduated from UCF in May with a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and microbiology. Heardley was a member of the Order of Pegasus and recipient of the Newman Civic Fellows Award for effecting positive change in the community.

Murdock said UCF has been a “family tradition,” and that like his brother, he’s enjoyed his time at UCF.

“UCF has inspired me to learn about fields I did not know existed, bringing my attention to novel possibilities and unique connections,” said Murdock. “I have experienced the joys of camaraderie, the truth of the challenge of engineering, the satisfaction of service and the excitement of being a Knight.”

“I feel my world view has been changed forever because of my time here,” he said. “It has made me the person I am today, giving me the confidence to pursue graduate education and dive into the workforce as a well-equipped and well-rounded engineer, an experience I know would be very different at any other university.”

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has awarded more than $3.7 million to deserving students around the United States since 1984. The foundation annually honors 28 students, and students from UCF have earned $203,000 from the nonprofit since 1986.

For more on the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, go to Additional information about Thursday’s game is available here.