By Charles Anzalone
Published June 22, 2022
Five UB students and one alumnus have received prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) scholarships, along with five honorable mentions recognizing current students and alumni.
The latest awards continue UB’s success in placing its students as winners in the GRFP scholarship program. Launched in 1952, the GRFP represents the oldest continuous investment in the nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. As one of the most competitive scholastic programs in the U.S., it recruits high-potential, early-career scientists and engineers, and supports their graduate research training.
Fellows receive a $34,000 annual stipend for three years, plus $12,000 annually for three years to defray tuition costs. All told, each scholar will receive up to $138,000. They’re also eligible to participate in international research and career development programs offered by NSF.
Past fellows include some of the nation’s most outstanding scientists, among them Google co-founder Sergey Brin and former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, as well as dozens of Nobel laureates and hundreds of members of the U.S. National Academies.
UB’s fellowship winners were among 2,000 chosen nationwide from more than 12,000 applicants in 2022.
“The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is a great recognition of the recipients' accomplishments and their potential for further impacts in their fields of research,” says Ashlee N. Ford Versypt, associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.
“Additionally, the number of awardees and honorable mentions is a reflection of the outstanding research environment at UB.”
The UB students and recent graduates who received the GRFP are:
Riley Bray Blasiak
A graduating senior in civil engineering and environmental engineering, Riley Bray Blasiak will attend the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the fall to pursue a PhD in the field of water resources. While at UB, she was heavily involved in ASCE’s steel bridge and concrete canoe teams. As project manager, she led both teams to national competitions. Blasiak says she is “hopeful her research and community involvement will have an impact on how people think about water quality issues and the use of green infrastructure.”
Grant R. Hecht
Grant Hecht is a graduate student in aerospace engineering, with a focus on design and optimization of trajectories in cislunar and interplanetary space for single and multi-spacecraft missions. He is also a NASA Pathways student with the Navigation and Mission Design branch at NASA Goddard, where he assists in the trajectory design and optimization process for robotic space flight missions.
A graduating senior in aerospace engineering, Anoop Kiran was an undergraduate research assistant studying unsteady aerodynamics at the DRiFT lab. He was also a math and physics tutor with Academic Support Services and a college ambassador for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He is passionate about blending computational modeling and simulation with real-world testing and engineering. Kiran aspires to serve at a national laboratory and will be pursuing his PhD in engineering at Brown University, specializing in bio-inspired robotics for aerospace applications. Outside of academia, he enjoys flying, hiking and soccer.
A graduating senior double majoring in physics and mathematics and minoring in linguistics and Chinese, Austin Marga’s research interests involve the synthesis and characterization of new nanomaterials for use in solar cells. He will attend Northwestern University to pursue a PhD in physics. Marga began physics research during the winter of his junior year, synthesizing transition-metal dichalcogenides down to the thickness of one atomic layer under his adviser, Hao Zeng, professor of physics. He previously worked with Karin Michelson, professor of linguistics, on computationally modeling Oneida, a critically endangered Native American language from upstate New York. Marga also worked as a college ambassador for the Department of Physics and as a tour guide for the Office of Admissions.
Isys Johnson is a graduate student in computer science.
Justin Page is currently a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley; he graduated from UB with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
Five UB students and alumni received NSF GRFP honorable mentions: Zacchariah Apolito, a graduate student studying anthropology; Evan Chugh, a graduate student studying computational science and engineering; Kimberly Louisor, a graduate student studying evolution; Stephanie Ann Stewart-Hill, currently a graduate student at Ohio State University who studied psychology at UB; and Liz-Audry Kounatse Djomnang, currently a graduate student at Cornell University who studied biomedical engineering at UB.