Top Students in STEM Earn National Fellowships

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Because they are considered to be among the nation's top students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the STEM fields – 22 University of Arizona students and alumni have been selected to receive funding through a highly competitive National Science Foundation fellowship program.

Nationwide, 2,000 students earned awards under the NSF's Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the largest graduate fellowship program of its kind in the nation. Currently, the UA has 50 fellows, the largest number in its history.

The fellowship is an important, highly competitive grant program for advanced students in STEM fields, providing an annual stipend of $32,000 and a $12,000 allowance to fund tuition and fees for graduate education and research over a three-year period. The UA Graduate College provides additional funding to cover the balance of tuition, fees, student health insurance and a UA travel grant.

"NSF fellows are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching and innovations in science and engineering," the NSF noted in a prepared statement. "These individuals are crucial to maintaining and advancing the nation's technological infrastructure and national security as well as contributing to the economic wellbeing of society at large."

Past recipients of the fellowship program include Nobel Prize winners, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.  Benjamin Blonder, who just finished his doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the UA and founded the UA Sky School, was a recipient in 2010. In March, the White House named Blonder a Champion of Change.

"This isn't just for people who will be really good bench scientists," said Georgia Ehlers, fellowships and community engagement director in the UA Graduate College. "Students who have volunteer experience and bring their science to the community do especially well applying for this program."

The UA has a strong support system to help students through the application process, Ehlers said.

"To me, that is a point of attraction for students. Also, you see many of the same faculty and advisers mentoring students," she said, noting that the majority of recipients receive support through the Graduate College's structured programs for foundation fellowship applicants.

Read the rest of this April 24 UANews story at the link below. Jose Miguel Rodas, a graduate student in family studies and human development (Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences), was interviewed in the article.

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