Prestigious STEM fellowship awarded to eleven UCR students

The coveted National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research fellowship was awarded to 11 UCR students. Over 2,000 applicants this year were selected to receive the award out of the 12,000 students within the United States. The government agency recognizes those who are pursuing research-based graduate and doctoral degrees within the science, technology, engineering and mathematic fields .

The four undergraduate students receiving this fellowship will continue their graduate education the following quarter, with one graduate fellow who completed their undergraduate studies at UC Riverside. The prestigious program selects students from a variety of economic and demographic backgrounds. NSF Fellows receive a three-year stipend of $34,000 as well as $12,000 to use for tuition and fees. In addition, they are given the opportunity to conduct their own research within their accredited institution or internationally.

Morgan Dundon, a first-year doctoral candidate in the Materials Sciences and Engineering program, appreciated the way the fellowship has given her the opportunity to pursue her research without the financial burden. She shared that the fellowship would give “extra opportunities for career development like external internships and networking events”, which would be beneficial upon completion of her doctoral study. Through her involvement with the Kisailus Biomimetics and Nanostructured Materials Lab Dundon she studies plant systems which are able to absorb heavy metals from water and soil and hopes to create a simple synthetic membrane for water purification.

Many students who were awarded this fellowship credit the GradSuccess office for their mentorship, writing consultations and workshops. Catherine Nguyen, a first-year graduate student in evolution, ecology and organismal biology, shared her goals with the Highlander. Through this fellowship, she hopes to continue her research in hormones, specifically oxytocin and vasopressin, and understanding how “parental care in both mothers and fathers (using California mice could) have applications in wildlife conservation and human health.”

Another NSF fellow and first-year graduate student has been involved with organizations such as Let’s Do It! World and the Ocean Protection Council in regards to environmental studies and waste management. Win Colton Cowger and his team are focused on plastic pollution and developing open-source tools for policymakers and waste management companies to identify locations of waste accumulation.

Like Cowger, Isis Frausto-Vicencio is pursuing her graduate education in environmental sciences after graduating from UCLA and College of the Sequoias with a major in chemistry. Her undergraduate studies contributed to her interest in linking her research in greenhouse gas with air toxins and health. By using existing tools that are used to record methane levels, Frausto-Vicencio wishes to “go out to communities that are impacted by refineries and their pollution and see what the BTEX, a type of carcinogen, levels are there.” This unusual integration of the two fields enables her to explore the co-benefits of reducing greenhouse gases with air pollution, instead of solely focusing on each field separately, combining both fieldwork and lab research.

The NSF Fellowship is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, existing since 1952. With their outstanding selection of students in a broad range of scientific disciplines, NSF graduate fellows are in the pursuit of contributing to research, teaching and innovations in science, technology and engineering. In addition to that, the fellowship promotes diversity among participants, not limited to graduate applicants. Prospective applicants who wish to apply for the following year must demonstrate large potential for significant improvements or achievements in the STEM fields and wish to pursue research within their master’s or doctoral degrees.

The following graduate and undergraduate students have also received a fellowship from NSF.

  • Alejandro Aron Gallegos, graduate
  • Joseph Valdez, graduate
  • Julia Adams, graduate
  • Leticia Meza, graduate
  • Natalie Fischer, graduate
  • Rosa Maria McGuire, undergraduate
  • Shannon Sweitzer, undergraduate

Honorable mentions were extended to 1,459 students nationwide. The following are honorable mentions from UCR:

  • Carys Layton, undergraduate
  • Glen Raymond Morrison, undergraduate
  • Sarah Nicole Ruckman, undergraduate
  • Madison Sankovitz, undergraduate
  • Erica Marie Sanderleaf Sarro, undergraduate
  • Andrew Danny Widjaja, graduate
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