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18 ASU undergraduates selected for German research fellowship


Headshot of Rachel Einecker

Rachel Einecker, an environmental science major, will travel to Gottingen, Germany, to work on a project that studies how drought affects plant physiology.

May 08, 2023

Arizona State University will send 18 undergraduates — the highest number ever from the school — to DAAD-RISE, a highly selective research fellowship program sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service, according to thLorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement.

The program supports summer research internships in Germany for undergraduate students from North America, Great Britain and Ireland. In their internships, students are carefully matched with doctoral students and researchers who serve as their mentors while they pursue research projects relevant to their interests.

About 300 scholarships are offered each year. The award funds travel and living expenses for up to three months. Additional funding has been provided by the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to help enhance the students’ experiences abroad.

“DAAD-RISE offers the ‘best of both worlds’ for motivated undergraduate STEM researchers,” said Catherine Salgado, scholarship office program manager and primary advisor for DAAD-RISE applicants. “Students no longer have to choose between applying to summer jobs or traveling. They get to do both through DAAD.”

Rachel Einecker, an environmental science major, will travel to Gottingen, Germany, to work on a project that studies how drought affects plant physiology.

“I’m looking forward to gaining some ecology fieldwork experience that will prepare me for a career in environmental science,” Einecker said.

As a nature lover and hiking enthusiast, Einecker is looking forward to her time abroad.

“Traveling to Germany will immerse me in a culture different from my own, push me to meet new people and try new things, and build strong connections with people from all over the world,” she said.

Mechanical engineering and mathematics double-major Ritisha Das will travel to Hamburg, Germany, where she will combine her academic interests in her project, Impact Solution of Flexible Multibody Systems, which proposes a new type of impact analysis called isometric analysis.

Das became interested in stars and space in first grade and gravitated toward math and physics as a result.

“DAAD-RISE combines the best of both worlds for me,” Das said. “The opportunity to do fascinating research intersects with the possibility of exploring new cities, cultures and meeting new people from all over the world.”

Photo of

Ritisha Das

Das serves as an officer for Women in STEM, an ASU student organization that seeks to increase retention and success among female STEM majors by providing opportunities for professional development and service. In the long term, she intends to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering and become an astronaut for NASA.

The experience abroad can have a significant impact on the recipients’ academic and professional trajectories.

“In addition to gaining important technical skills, students have also said that working and researching abroad has made them more competitive for graduate programs and the job market,” Salgado said. “Many DAAD-RISE awardees also go on to apply to prestigious upper-division fellowship opportunities, such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.”

Over the last three cycles, a DAAD-RISE awardee has been selected for the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s top honor for undergraduate STEM majors: Isabella Huckabee (2021), Jasmin Falconer (2022) and Chloe Leff (2023).

The other ASU recipients of the DAAD-RISE Fellowship this year are:

  • Justin Crawford, civil engineering.
  • Devin DeCosmo, mechanical engineering.
  • Abhirup Vijay Gunakar, computer science.
  • Neha Balamurugan, computer science.
  • Timothy Chase, chemical engineer.
  • Hitesh Gurram, biomedical engineering.
  • Megan Murphy, biomedical engineering.
  • Brooke Bolsinger, computer science.
  • Mark Agoston, mechanical engineering.
  • Elaine Greer, electrical engineering.
  • Kylie Hartana, electrical engineering.
  • Joelle Khair, environmental engineering.
  • Sarah Lunetto, astrobiology.
  • Jade Pastor, neuroscience.
  • Rylee James, chemistry.
  • Claire LuzHoxie, mathematics and human communications.

Applicants for DAAD-RISE work with the scholarship office to navigate the complicated process and revise their application materials.

Salgado credits a progressive “cohort-style” advising process for ASU’s recent success with DAAD-RISE.

“Our advising approach allows students to explore their internship options together in a small group setting, decode the application and stay motivated as they draft their application materials,” she said.

Success in highly competitive fellowship competitions like DAAD-RISE also requires significant personal motivation and persistence.

“Our office is excited to support applicants as they apply to this program, but ultimately it is up to them to carve out the time to draft their application materials,” Salgado added. “So often we see well-qualified candidates miss out on opportunities because of lack of planning.”

Given that students only have six weeks to complete their applications, collaboration, planning and persistence are crucial. Einecker recalls having only a month to research and write a cover letter for each project that interested her.

Das agreed that the application process was challenging.

“Even with all my research experience, I was pretty nervous about applying for the DAAD-RISE program,” she said. “After I had written all my cover letters and prepared thoroughly to the best of my ability, I was unsure of how it would all turn out. But Ms. Salgado was always incredibly encouraging. I really appreciated the motivation she provided me during this process.”

Salgado said she encourages students to attend an information session at the end of October and meet with her as soon as possible after the application opens to discuss how DAAD-RISE fits in with their goals and strategize a feasible application timeline.

The next six-week application cycle for the DAAD-RISE will open in November 2023 and close in December. Students who are interested in applying can reach out to ONSA at onsa@asu.edu for further information.

Story submitted by the Office of National Scholarships Advisement at ASU

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