Students Earn Prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Graduate students Jackson Stolle (left) and Wesley Cole (right).Jackson Stolle, Jeff Thompson and Wesley Cole have each been awarded prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships.

The award includes a $30,000 stipend per year for the next three years, a $10,500 educational allowance and supercomputer access.

“We’re really pleased to add three more fellows to our department,” said Professor Isaac Sanchez, the graduate advisor.  “That now brings our total to 21 NSF Fellows.”

The competitive fellowship program works to select, recognize, and financially support individuals who demonstrate the potential to be high achieving scientists and engineers early in their career.  Past GRFP fellows include Google founder Sergey Brin and numerous Nobel Prize winners.

Each of the students has a particular area of research that they will use their fellowships for.

Stolle studies the chemistry of the Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide nanocrystal and other semiconductor “solar inks” in order to improve their electronic properties for photovoltaic applications.   Advised by Professor Brian Korgel, Stolle’s research could help make solar energy become competitive with fossil fuels.  “Right now, solar cells are only three percent efficient,” Stolle said.  “Our goal is to raise that efficiency to at least 10 percent, where they’ll be commercial.”  (See Korgel’s Spray-On Solar Panels Featured on Science Nation for more information.)

Jeff ThompsonThompson, who is co-advised by Professor Lydia Contreras and Isaac Sanchez, is working to gain a mechanistic understanding of RNA-protein interactions involved in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. “An important aspect of our work is the innovation of high-throughput tools and novel computational methods  to probe and understand molecular interactions in living cells. Potential applications include understanding, detecting, and fighting diseases where such interactions play a key role,” Thompson said.

Professor Tom Edgar advises Cole.  “My research aims at finding ways to use our energy smarter,” said Cole who focuses on modeling, optimizing and controlling energy systems.   “If we can use our energy more efficiently, we not only save money, but we also create fewer pollutants and help preserve limited resources such as water or fossil fuels.”

About the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program:

Since 1952, NSF has funded over 46,500 graduate research fellowships out of more than 500,000 applicants.  More than 30 recipients have become Nobel Laureates and over 440 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences.  The reputation of the GRFP follows fellows and often helps them become life-long leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching.

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