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MU Engineering well represented among NSF graduate fellowship recipients

Five NSF Graduate Research Fellowship recipients pose on one of the Columns in front of Jesse Hall.

Of the 10 University of Missouri students selected this spring by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) to receive funding to attend graduate school, seven were engineers. Five are current undergraduates. Front row: Devin Petersohn, Charles Meyer, Marcos Barcellona. Back row: Emily Cheng, Samantha Huddleston. Photo by Hannah Sturtecky.

Of the 10 University of Missouri students selected this spring by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) to receive funding to attend graduate school, seven were engineers. Four engineering students also earned honorable mentions.

The competitive program “recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.”

The NSF GRFP provides fellows with three-year annual stipends of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, paid to the institution where they choose to study. NSF additionally provides fellows with opportunities for international research and professional development, along with the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education.

Current MU Engineering undergraduate students who have been named NSF graduate research fellows are Devin Petersohn, computer science; Charles Meyer, electrical engineering; Samantha Huddleston, bioengineering; Emily Cheng, chemical engineering; and Marcos Barcellona, bioengineering.

  • Devin Petersohn’s MU faculty mentor was computer science Professor Chi-Ren Shyu. His work with Shyu involved creating new algorithms for handling vast amounts of DNA datasets. Petersohn will pursue a doctorate at the University of California – Berkeley.
  • Charles Meyer conducted undergraduate research with MU electrical and computer Associate Professor Gregory Triplett studying materials and device architectures for thermophotovoltaics — devices that can convert heat into electricity. Meyer will pursue a doctorate at Stanford University.
  • Samantha Huddleston has been working with MU bioengineering Professor Sheila Grant. Her project involves the development and characterization of gellan gum — a naturally occurring gelling agent — and homogenized tissue hydrogels for potential treatment of post-traumatic osteoarthritis. Huddleston will attend Northwestern University.
  • Emily Cheng worked with MU electrical and computer engineering Associate Professor Gregory Triplett for two years on a project to develop an effective method to chemically remove the native oxide layer found on semiconductor substrates. In her junior year, she began work with MU chemical engineering Professor Bret Ulery to develop novel materials for vertebral compression fracture treatment, and currently is studying the effect of varying the amount of ionic and covalent crosslinking used when synthesizing chitosan (a natural polymer) hydrogels on the resulting gels’ mechanical properties. Such gels have many potential biomedical applications. Cheng also plans to attend Northwestern University.
  • Marcos Barcellona worked with MU chemical engineering Assistant Professor Matthew Bernards investigating a drug delivery system that is responsive to external stimuli, allowing the user to control the rate of release of the drug. The system also could be implanted into the human body for prolonged drug delivery without eliciting an immune response. Barcellona hopes to work in the field of biomaterials doing something similar as he pursues his graduate degree, but he hasn’t decided where he will study.

Two students named NSF GRFP fellows received bachelor’s degrees from Mizzou Engineering have already started their graduate work. Angelique Taylor, computer science, is studying at the University of Notre Dame, and Mackenzie Callaway, bioengineering, is at the University of Minnesota.

  • Angelique Taylor was mentored by MU Assistant Professor Alina Zare. The goal of her work was to investigate features for classifying regions on the sea bed — sea grass, hand-packed sand ripple — in order to more robustly detect sea mines in sonar images. She explored using local binary patterns to classify seabed environments. Taylor now is working with computer science and engineering Assistant Professor Laurel Riek at the University of Notre Dame designing algorithms that can teach robots to behave properly in human spaces.

“I investigate human behavior and the social cues that humans signal naturally to one another to teach robots how to do this as well,” Taylor said.

  • Mackenzie Callaway was conducting research as a Howard Hughes Medical Apprentice before she even set foot on the MU campus. Her MU mentor was molecular pathogenesis and therapeutics Professor Donald Burke who also has a joint appointment in biochemistry. Under his guidance, Callaway worked with MU Assistant Research Professor Margaret Lange to develop HIV viral constructs for use in vitro in order to identify broad spectrum, small molecule inhibitors for HIV replication. Now at the University of Minnesota, she is working with biomedical engineering Professor Paolo Provenzano to study pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

“I am exploring how chemical crosstalk between carcinoma cells and other cancer-associated cells influences cancer progression, and how this communication changes as a function of matrix mechanics,” Callaway said.

MU Engineering students who received honorable mentions include graduate students Travis Tumlin, mechanical and aerospace engineering; Josiah Smith, chemical engineering; and Benjamin Davis, mechanical and aerospace engineering. Zakary Beach, who received his undergraduate degree in bioengineering at MU and who is currently in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, also received an honorable mention.

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