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Engineering grads earn prestigious national fellowships

April 30, 2010

Four students in ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering will get support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program to pursue research-based masters and doctoral degrees in engineering and science.

“The NSF Graduate Fellowship is one of the most highly competitive national programs for graduate fellowships,” said Valana Wells, program chair for Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Students must prepare their own highly detailed application for the fellowship, including proposals explaining the value of the research they plan to pursue.

The fellowship awards “show that the engineering program at ASU is competitive with engineering schools across the nation, and can prepare students to be elite members of the scientific community,” said Michael Garcia, one of the recipients.

Garcia and two other NSF Fellowships winners – Ryan Manis and Steven Shark –  have completed their undergraduate work in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace, Chemical and Materials Engineering.

Rebekah Theisen is graduating with a major in physics from the College of Liberal Arts and Science and has been accepted into the Materials Science and Engineering graduate program at ASU.

The fellowship gives each of the students three years’ tuition, a cost-of-living stipend and a travel allowance.

“It not only eases the financial burden of graduate school,” Garcia said. “It gives me a career boost, with the prestige of having earned an NSF fellowship.”

Garcia will pursue a doctorate in mechanical engineering at ASU. His research will focus on “smart” materials systems, working in the Multi-scale Adaptive Sensors and Structures Lab under assistant professor Henry Sodano.

Manis will also continue his education at ASU, pursuing a doctorate in mechanical engineering. He will do research in the Biomechatronics Lab directed by assistant professor Veronica Santos. His research focuses on helping develop a life-like robotic prosthetic hand.

Shark will pursue his doctorate in aerospace engineering at Purdue University.  

“I see this fellowship as a key that is unlocking the door to my future,” Shark said. “Not only has this fellowship given me the opportunity to go to the graduate school of my choice, but I am now part of a community composed of some of the brightest people in the country.”

Theisen’s graduate studies in material science and engineering will focus on research in computational modeling, under the direction of engineering professor James Adams.

She also will continue research with assistant professor Jian Li on the organic photovoltaics.

More than 42,000 Graduate Research Fellowships have been funded by the NSF since 1952. More than 70 percent of the students granted the awards have earned a doctoral degree.

Written by Jessica Graham