Five MU undergrads named NSF Graduate Research Fellows
The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program turned 62 this year. Five University of Missouri engineering undergraduates were among those receiving the program’s prestigious “birthday gifts.”
Shakked Halperin, William McNeary, Ali Ross, Megan Schroeder and Sital Uprety were selected to be program fellows. As such, each will receive a three-year annual $32,000 stipend in support of their pursuit of an advanced degree at an accredited U.S. university of their choice, as well as opportunities for international research.
More than 14,000 students applied for the fellowships, with just 2,000 receiving offers.
McNeary, a chemical engineering major, plans to pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of Colorado and has a plan in place to work with a professor on solar-thermal process research. The lab he plans to work in is working on a pair of projects — one using concentrated sunlight to produce hydrogen gas from water, and another harnessing solar-thermal energy to develop a cooking stove for off-grid use in developing countries.
“The status of being an NSF Fellow will afford me many important networking opportunities and open lots of doors professionally,” McNeary said. “I feel very fortunate to have received such an award, and I intend to work as hard as I can to ensure that any investment made in my education is returned through productive research and important contributions to society and scientific knowledge.”
Ross, a biological engineering major, said she plans on focusing her research on tissue and regenerative engineering upon attending Duke University in the fall. A member of the MU cross country and track and field teams, she said she was both excited and relieved upon receiving the fellowship, given the tough competition and arduous application process.
“It is always nice to be recognized and rewarded for hard work, but more important, I think, is the confidence that receiving this award gives me,” Ross said. “With this award, I know that I will be able to focus fully on my studies and research and be a successful graduate student.”
Schroeder also will be attending the University of Colorado, and the biological engineering major plans to pursue a research project in either tissue engineering or drug delivery. She joked that she almost didn’t believe the news when she heard, given that the names of the fellows were released on April Fool’s Day.
“This award certainly helps alleviate my financial worries heading off to a graduate program in a new city while also giving me the opportunity to work with a professor of my choosing on a project that I am most passionate about,” Schroeder said.
Uprety, a civil engineering major, will attend the University of Illinois. He plans on working with a professor on a project to develop small-scale, community-based treatment plants to provide quality drinking water to communities in Africa. He said he’s excited about the possibilities the fellowship will provide to expand his research thanks to access to funding and advanced resources, adding that his excitement upon hearing the news of his selection was “beyond imaginary.”
“My confidence level has definitely gone up after I received such a prestigious award, and this will contribute to a continuous growth of the strong foundation I have built at the University of Missouri,” Uprety said.
Halperin, a Fall 2013 bioengineering graduate, will attend the University of Cambridge in England in the fall, which unfortunately means he will be unable to use the fellowship funding, as it is applicable only to U.S. institutions. Halperin, however, already secured a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to cover the cost of his education, where he plans to work on researching and creating a sensor that will identify safe drinking water to lessen the effects of arsenic poisoning and other water-based diseases.
“I am honored to be deemed worthy of such an investment from the nation’s principal scientific research and education agency,” Halperin said. “It is encouraging knowing that the NSF believes I am on track to make an impact through science.”