San Diego, Calif., April 24, 2015 -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Graduate Research Fellowships to eight students from the Jacobs School of Engineering. This year, the NSF received approximately 16,500 applications and made 2,000 fellowship award offers. The fellowships provide three years of financial support – including an annual stipend and a cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution – during a five-year period to individuals pursuing research-based master’s or doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.
The recipients of the 2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships are:
Caleb Christianson is a nanoengineering Ph.D. student with a concentration in biomedical nanotechnology. He is currently supported by a Charles Lee Powell Foundation fellowship and is doing research in micro- and nanorobotics under the direction of Distinguished Professor Joseph Wang, Chair of the NanoEngineering Department. His research primarily focuses on gripping actuators for nanorobotics, and he additionally works on micro- and nanomotors for biomedical, environmental remediation, and defense applications. In 2014, Christianson earned a B.S. in engineering physics with a concentration in electromechanical control systems from the University of Kansas. Prior to coming to UC San Diego, he interned at Orbis Biosciences and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in Kansas City and was an undergraduate research assistant at the University of Kansas, Cornell University, and Tel Aviv University. He is a member of the Materials Research Society and Associate Member of Sigma Xi. After receiving his Ph.D., Christianson plans to pursue his passions for both nanotechnology and entrepreneurship to work on a nanotechnology-based startup.
Sankha Ghatak is a first year Ph.D. student in the Bioengineering Department. He received his B.S. in biomedical engineering from the Macaulay Honors College at the City College of New York. He is currently conducting research in systems biology under bioengineering professor Bernhard Palsson. Ghatak hopes to one day design and market diagnostic and therapeutic biomedical devices.
Kaitlin Hall is a first year doctoral student in the Structural Engineering Department. She received her B.S. in civil and environmental engineering from North Carolina State University in 2008 and her M.S. in geotechnical engineering from UC Berkeley in 2009. From 2010 to 2014, Hall worked as a full-time instructor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. Currently, she is doing geotechnical engineering research under the direction of her advisor, Professor Patrick Fox. For her doctoral research project, Hall will conduct a computational investigation of soil behavior under high strain rate loading.
Rachel Marty is a computer science and engineering alumna who earned her B.S. in 2014 with a specialty in bioinformatics. She graduated magna cum laude even while playing varsity collegiate basketball. Marty has done bioinformatics internships at Thermo Fisher Scientific (and Life Technologies, which it acquired) as well as at Illumina, where she developed an "application to centralize the experience of gene exploration for researchers." Her research interests include cancer genomics, genomic algorithms, and population genetics. Marty has done research in the field of genomic algorithms with computer science and engineering professor Vineet Bafna, and has also studied cancer genomics with Hannah Carter at the UC San Diego School of Medicine's Division of Medical Genetics. "I will likely choose one of them to be my advisor at the end of the year," says Marty, when the rotation period of her doctoral program ends. Marty also would like to recognize computer science and engineering professor Andrew Kahng, who recommended her for the fellowship; as an undergraduate, she took an algorithms class with Kahng, who also supervised an independent study project when she interned at Life Technologies. "He has played a prominent role in getting me where I am," notes Marty, who plans to finish her Ph.D. in 2019.
Daniel Rodriquez, Jr. received his B.S. in nanoengineering from UC San Diego in 2014. He served five years in the U.S. Navy and funded his education with support from the Post 9/11 GI Bill. As an undergraduate, Rodriquez conducted research on the mechanical properties of thin-film organic photovoltaics and participated in the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program, which places underrepresented students into paid research positions. In 2015, he joined the Ph.D. program in nanoengineering at UC San Diego. As a member of Professor Darren Lipomi’s research group, Rodriquez’s specialty is in materials science; his research focuses on the design and characterization of flexible and stretchable organic electronics. These devices include wearable sensors, transparent electrodes, and flexible solar cells. Additionally, Rodriquez is involved in public outreach, mentors other students, and conducts lab tours for local high school students. He has a strong interest in entrepreneurism and has a vision for developing research ideas and projects into marketable products.
Alexandria Shearer is a computer science and engineering Ph.D. student working on applications in heterogeneous computing. Less than two weeks ago, she was selected to receive a one-year UC San Diego Frontiers of Innovation Scholarship (FISP) to continue her work on aerial LiDAR scanning of Mayan ruins. The FISP fellowship will provide financial support over the summer and partially cover equipment and travel costs related to her research. Shearer arrived at UC San Diego in 2013 after earning her B.S. in computer science and engineering from Santa Clara University's School of Engineering, where she graduated as the top senior in computer engineering. She expects to complete her Ph.D. in 2018. Among past honors, Shearer was a SWE ViaSat Scholar in 2012 and a Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholar in 2011, which is the same year she won an NSF Grace Hopper Celebration Scholarship.
Max Shen will graduate this June with a B.S. in computer science and a specialization in bioinformatics. He is a research assistant in the group of computer science and engineering professor Pavel Pevzner, and has spent the past year contributing his work to Pevzner's Rosalind platform for learning bioinformatics and programming through problem-solving. Shen’s work involves designing and implementing bioinformatics programming assignments onto a live website with randomized input generation and scoring. Rosalind is used in undergraduate bioinformatics courses, as well as by students enrolled in Pevzner's massive open online courses on Coursera, including courses on bioinformatics algorithms. Shen has also served as a TA and tutor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department, a software engineering intern at Qualcomm, and a software engineer at Illumina. Thanks to his experience as a research assistant in the UC San Diego School of Medicine's Radiology Imaging Laboratory, Shen may be the only computer science student who is also certified to operate a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.
Eduardo Valle will graduate this June with a B.S. in chemical engineering. He currently does research in the lab of nanoengineering professor Darren Lipomi, and tests the performance of a photovoltaic (solar cell) device that was built using a polymeric material synthesized in Lipomi’s lab. One of the goals of Valle’s research project is to create a flexible and stretchable material that can produce electricity efficiently. In the summer of 2014 he interned at Sandia National Laboratories, where he designed nanoparticles for drug delivery. In addition, Valle is a McNair and NACME scholar, and he received an award in 2013 from the Society for Advancement of Chicanos & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Conference. In the fall, he will begin his doctoral studies in the chemical engineering graduate program at Stanford University, where he also hopes to pursue his research interests in renewable and green energy.