10 UCF Students Recognized by NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Six UCF changemakers have been named U.S. National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows, a recognition shared by the likes of Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Nobel laureate Steven Chu.

Four other UCF students received honorable mentions.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowships program is dedicated to supporting students in STEM disciplines pursuing full-time research-based masters and doctoral studies. The goal is to help ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and technical workforce in the United States. The program is one of NSF’s oldest running rewards programs.

For each graduating scholar, the award includes a five-year fellowship with three years of financial support, including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a $12,000 college tuition stipend.

“These students should be proud of this achievement,” says John Weishampel, Senior Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. He has served in the NSF and helped select recipients in the past. “This scholarship will allow them to start planning their future scientific and technical projects. The GRFP paves the way for them to change the world.

Riley Havel, is the first in her family to pursue a PhD and STEM degree. She graduates in May with a major in physics and a minor in geosciences. With her NSF Senior Fellowship, she will attend Brown University as a doctoral student in their Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences program.

“Receiving the NSF GRFP gave me confidence in my potential as a scientist,” says Havel. “The reassuring feedback and constructive feedback regarding my proposed research plan made me even more excited to get started.”

Havel’s research interests include isotopic geochemistry in meteorites and understanding the evolution of our solar system. After completing her studies, she aims to become a research scientist at NASA and move into an administrative role later.

Many recipients are Burnett Honors College students or part of UCF’s McNair Scholar Program (McNair) or Research and Mentorship Program (RAMP). Two of the students, Havel and Rosa Oliviera, are graduating this spring, and four are recent graduates now at other institutions.

The recipients are:

  • Erin Crites ’20Physics (BS), College of Science, Burnett Honors College

Current Institution: North Carolina State University

Field of study: Physics and astronomy – condensed matter physics

  • Riley HavelPhysics (BS), College of Science, RAMP, Burnett Honors College

Current Institution: University of Central Florida

Field of study: Geosciences – planetary science

  • Husband Irving ’20Biology (BS), College of Science, Burnett Honors College

Current institution: University of California-Santa Barbara

Field of study: Life Sciences – Ecology

  • Rosa OliveraAerospace Engineering (BSAE), College of Engineering and Computer Science, McNair Fellow

Current Institution: University of Central Florida

Field of study: Engineering – aeronautics and aerospace

  • Stephanie SchreinerBiology (BS), College of Science, McNair Fellow

Current Institution: University of Pennsylvania

Field of study: Life Sciences – Immunology

  • Nicholas Wiesenthal ’21Biology (BS), Faculty of Sciences

Current Institution: Arizona State University

Field of study: research on STEM education and learning

Winner Stephanie Schreiner says she owes her success to her mentors, including UCF assistant professor Kaitlyn Crawford of materials science and engineering, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences associate professor Kyle Rohde, UPenn associate professor of Sunny Shin Microbiology and the McNair Scholars Program.

“As a first-generation student, there were no scientists in my family and no PhDs I could turn to for advice,” Schreiner says. “I also surrounded myself with a support system. Winning the NSF GRFP reaffirmed my belief that with hard work, anything is possible.

Additionally, four UCF graduates received honorable mentions. The recipients are:

  • Julissa Burgos ’19Biomedical Sciences (BS), Faculty of Medicine, McNair Scholar

Current Institution: Vanderbilt University

Field of study: Life Sciences – Cellular and Developmental Biology

  • Lauren Puleo ’21Biology (BS), Faculty of Sciences

Current institution: University of South Carolina at Columbia

Field of study: Life Sciences – Ecology

  • Marc Etienne ’21Aerospace Engineering (BSAE), Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science

Current Institution: University of Central Florida

Field of study: Engineering – aeronautics and aerospace

  • Stephanie Lyn Villella ’20biology (BS), Faculty of Science

Current Institution: University of Central Florida

Field of study: Life Sciences – Ecology

Honorable Mention Puleo is currently pursuing his Masters in Biology at the University of South Carolina at Columbia. In the future, she plans to obtain a doctorate. and continue research on the effects of climate change on long-distance migratory shorebirds.

“I hope my research will contribute to future conservation efforts,” says Puleo. “Receiving an honorable mention at the start of my graduate career gives me great inspiration and determination to move forward with my research goals.”

Director of UCF’s Prestigious Awards Office, Morgan Bauer, says he’s thrilled to share news of the honorees.

“This is a campus-wide achievement that would not have been possible without the support of faculty and other academic support offices, such as Academic Advancement Programs,” Bauer said. .

This year, the NSF awarded 2,193 research grants to graduate students across the country.

In 2021, UCF had a record 16 Knights who were awarded NSF Postgraduate Research Fellowships, and in 2020, 15 UCF students received this honor. UCF has had a total of 143 NSF GRFP recipients and 80 honorable mentions since the start of the scholarship.

For more information about the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, or other major national awards, and how to apply, students should contact the Prestigious Awards Office at [email protected].

About Mark A. Tomlin

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