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Several students receive prestigious NSF fellowships and honorable mentions

By Iqbal Pittalwala | Inside UCR |
Riverside, Ca –


Nine University of California, Riverside, students received National Science Foundation, or NSF, Graduate Research Fellowships this year. The oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — the STEM — disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. 

Fellows often become life-long leaders, achieving high levels of success in their academic and professional careers.

The nine UCR recipients of the highly competitive fellowships and their fields of study are:

Graduate students Holly Christenson, astronomy and astrophysics; Alexandria Nicole Costantino, particle physics; Martin Fernandez, cosmology; Marie Laura Leger, entomology; Jill Marzolino, evolutionary biology; Gregory Michael Newkirk, microbial biology; and Samantha Smith, systematics and biodiversity. Undergraduate students Sofia Rose Martinez Alberga, algebra, number theory, and combinatorics; and Cindy Cristina Yanez, climate and large-scale atmospheric dynamics.

This year, nine students also received honorable mentions – itself a significant achievement. Additionally, three UCR alumni received the Graduate Research Fellowships.

“Congratulations to this year’s recipients of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowships and honorable mentions!” said Shaun Bowler, Graduate Division dean. “These awards are a testament to the continuing quality of our students and programs. Well done to the students and their advisors.”

Each fellow receives a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 as well as a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees, opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education.

Hillary Jenks, director of the GradSuccess summer fellowship writing program in which more than half of recipients participated, said the awards cover the cost for faculty advisors to support the students in their labs.

“The 2019 awards to our students will save UCR $1.4 million-1.5 million over three years,” she said.

Christenson, Costantino, and Fernandez are leaders of the Department of Physics and Astronomy’s student-run Physics Organization for Women and the Under-Represented, or POWUR. Yanez is a physics major and a 2018 Chancellor's Research Fellow.

“It’s phenomenal that four students in the department won these fellowships this year,” said Kenneth Barish, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “Congratulations to them and their faculty advisors!”




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