CNAS Students Awarded Prestigious Fellowships and Scholarships

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Seven CNAS students have won Graduate Research Fellowships (GRFs) from the National Science Foundation (NSF) based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. Institutions.

The GRF awardees from CNAS for 2015 are: Alina M. Escalera (physics and astronomy), Katie Marie Magnone (chemistry), Jessica Lynee McKinley (chemistry), Ariana Elaine Nguyen (material science, joint program with the college of engineering), Jerlyn L. Swiatlowski (geosciences), Jessica Nichole Toth (organismal biology), and Lauren Walker (cell biology). Also earning awards are UCR students Samuel Douglas Patton (environmental engineering), Laura Quinones-Camacho (psychology), Maria Theresa Sekyi (bioengineering), and Benjamin David Yetton (psychology).

This year, NSF awarded the GRF to 2,000 individuals from among 16,500 applicants. The GRFP provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution) for graduate study that leads to a research-based master's or doctoral degree in science or engineering.

Matthew O'DellPh.D. candidate in mathematics Matthew O’Dell has been awarded the Fulbright Fellowship for the academic year 2015-2016. O’Dell, who works under the supervision of Professor of Mathematics Vyjayanthi Chari, will spend the next year working on this thesis studying global and local Weyl modules for maximal parabolic subalgebras of affine Lie algebras with professors Deniz Kuz and Peter Littelmann at the University of Cologne (Germany).

O’Dell earned his B.S. at the University of Idaho in 2008 and his M.S. at Boise State University in 2010. As a student in mathematics at UCR, O’Dell’s willingness to assist other graduate students and instructors, help with events and attend recruitment fairs was recognized with the department’s Vernon A. Kramer Memorial Service Award. He is shown in the photo at the right at the International Congress of Mathematicians which he attended last summer in South Korea.  


Erika Varady, an undergraduate student working with Georgios Vidalakis, a plant pathologist and director of the Citrus Clonal Protection Program, has been selected to participate in the Joslin Research Summer Student Internship Program at Harvard University.

The program provides 10-12 weeks of practical exposure to diabetes-related biomedical research, ranging from clinically focused to basic science investigation. Varady is one of only four undergraduates nationwide selected to participate. At Harvard, she will work with Thomas Serwold, an assistant professor in the Harvard Medical School, on a project seeking to understand the factors that drive T cells to attack and kill insulin-producing beta cells and cause type 1 diabetes.

In Vidalakis’s lab at UCR, Varady is working on an independent project that focuses on a post-harvest citrus fungus. She leaves for Harvard on June 20, and will receive a stipend of $3,000. “The selection process was very competitive, so being selected is an achievement that you can be proud of,” Serwold mentioned in an e-mail to Varady.


Undergraduate students Hanni Schoniger, Connor Richards and Jade Zamorano (left to right in photo) were named winners of prestigious scholarships from the Donald A. Strauss Foundation. Highly competitive, the Strauss Scholarship is a public service scholarship given to university students in California.

Richards received the $10,000 scholarship for a project that aims to increase college enrollment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields among Riverside-area high school students by engaging them in the CERN Masterclass, which is hosted by the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Schoniger and Zamorano’s project, which also received $10,000 in funding, proposes a self-sustaining outreach program to bridge the educational opportunity gap in the Inland Empire by inspiring underrepresented youth in high schools to pursue higher education and careers in STEM fields. Read the full story about their projects >>


Biochemistry major Geoff Pronovost is one of only eight University of California students awarded the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2015-16 academic year.

Working under the mentorship of Prof. Monica Carlson, professor and chair of biomedical sciences, Pronovost’s research focuses on a receptor in the brain that is classically identified with anti-inflammatory reactions. Since transferring to UCR from Riverside City College, Pronovost been named a Chancellor’s Research Fellow, University Honors student, and a UC LEADS student. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is considered one of the most prestigious awards given to university students in science in the U.S.


Undergraduate students (pictured left to right) Dominic Martinez-Ta, Sahar Naghibi, Ingrid Liao, and William Coley have been awarded highly-competitive summer research fellowships by the Semiconductor Research Corporation. The fellowships will provide each recipient a stipend of $4,000 for 10 weeks to work this summer in science and technology fields related to the semiconductor computer industry. It also includes an invitation to TechCon, a national conference that brings together industry representatives, faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students to share cutting edge research related to the semiconductor industry. All four students work with Professor of Chemistry Ludwig Bartels.


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