Five UD students receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Matthew Fischel, a doctoral student at the University of Delaware, is busy this summer researching the ability of wetland plants to sequester heavy metal contaminants in the face of sea level rise at a community near Wilmington.

Fischel, whose hometown is Hockessin, Delaware, aspires to become a professor in the natural sciences, following in the footsteps of his adviser, Donald Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair in Plant and Soil Sciences and director of the Delaware Environmental Institute.

“I want to be able to shape the future in environmental research and help train the next generation of scientists,” Fischel says.

He’s well on his way, as one of five UD students who have won prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship Program awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, now in its 62nd year, the program has a strong track record of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers, with past fellows including numerous Nobel Prize winners and other leading innovators and educators.

NSF Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $32,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.

Fischel, both honored and excited to be selected for the national award, says the fellowship provides the flexibility he needs to conduct research he’s interested in and which will help improve the natural world.

“The University of Delaware is proud of our NSF Graduate Research Fellows and looks forward to their continuing accomplishments,” says James Richards, vice provost for graduate and professional education. “These exceptional students are on a trajectory to become tomorrow’s leaders.”

UD’s 2014 NSF Graduate Research Fellows

The following UD students and alumni were named fellows and plan to pursue research in the following fields and graduate schools, according to information provided by NSF:

  • Peter Attia, engineering (materials), Stanford University
  • Austin Bart (Honors), software systems and software engineering, Virginia Tech
  • Matthew Fischel, geosciences and geochemistry, University of Delaware
  • Michael Orella, chemical engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Jeffrey Smith, life sciences – ecology, Yale University
  • Additionally, Diana Haidar, who received her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was named a fellow and is pursuing her graduate work in mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware.

Five UD alumni received honorable mention. They included Christine Gregg (Honors), currently a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of California-Berkeley; Douglas Kenny, a graduate student in chemistry at UD; Kelsey Lucca (Honors), a graduate student in developmental psychology at Duke University; Joshua Martin, a graduate student in materials science and engineering at Northeastern University; and Sarah Solomon (Honors), whose field of study is psychology-cognitive neuroscience.

Article by Tracey Bryant

Photo by Evan Krape