Three students who made the journey from their Mountain State homes to West Virginia University will continue their quest for solutions to significant world problems after being awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowships.
The trio, all students at the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, were selected out of more than 14,000 applicants for the awards, which will help fund their research at the graduate school level.
Joseph Bright, a mechanical engineering doctoral student from West Milford, W.Va.; Jacob Cordonier, a mechanical engineering senior from Parkersburg, W.Va.; and Rachel James, a civil engineering senior from Crawford, W.Va., were granted fellowships for their outstanding abilities, accomplishments and potential to contribute to the science and engineering enterprise.
NSF fellows receive a $32,000 annual stipend for three years, a $12,000 cost of education allowance, opportunities for international research and the liberty to choose their own course of research at an accredited university.
“These awards are very competitive and serve as an indication of the quality of our students and our programs,” said Fred King, vice president for research at WVU. “It is especially significant that at least one of them will be remaining at WVU to continue their work.”
This is the third time since 2010 that more than one student from the Statler College has been selected to receive these prestigious fellowships. Six students were selected in 2010 and two were selected in 2011; one was selected in 2013.
Bright earned his Bachelor’s Degree in mechanical engineering at WVU in 2013 and was awarded the Statler College Ph.D. Fellowship that same year. He plans to use the NSF fellowship to continue his research on sustainable alternative fuel sources under the tutelage of mechanical and aerospace engineering Associate Professor Nianqiang Wu.
“The fellowship’s travel funds will help me to further my education by allowing me to communicate and network with other researchers on cutting-edge research,” Bright said. “Without the sharing of ideas, science and knowledge would progress at a snail’s pace.”
He is thankful to WVU faculty members Gregory Thompson, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Terrence Musho, assistant professor in the department, as well as Wu for helping him put together the application for the fellowship.
“I am sure Joeseph will continue to prosper in his graduate studies under the guidance of Dr. Wu,” Thompson said. “This award will certainly help to advance his scholarly activities and lead to a career where his West Virginian roots will continue to cultivate solutions to society’s problems.”
“This is a great honor that reaffirms that a kid who grew up in a small town in West Virginia can be competitive with other students from around the country,” said Bright. “I just hope I can be a positive role model for kids who growing up like me to do what they can to reach their potential going forward.”
Cordonier, a 2014 WVU Outstanding Senior, researched the development of solution-based stretchable and biocompatible devices used in energy harvesting and sensing applications as an undergraduate. He was part of two teams recognized at national conferences for research posters and presentations.
“Since my junior year at WVU, I have performed research in various projects within the Flexible Electronics for Sustainable Technologies Lab with Dr. (Kostas) Sierros,” said Cordonier. “That opportunity greatly helped me to crystallize my future research plans. My next step is to integrate additive manufacturing technologies with flexible device fabrication and I am well-equipped to pursue this goal here at WVU. The Statler College is a great environment in which to conduct research.”
“Jacob is an exceptional student who systematically followed an effective research and outreach plan during his undergraduate career,” said Sierros. “I am very pleased with his progress and I have no doubt that he has a great future in research.”
James, who was a 2013 Goldwater Scholar and a 2014 Order of Augusta honoree, used her time as an undergraduate researching transportation engineering, specifically stochastic network analysis and route choice models. Thanks to the fellowship, she will be able to research non-linear travel costs and route choice at the graduate level, but is undecided on where she will attend school.
She has been an undergraduate research assistant with Avinash Unnikrishnan, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. James has had two journal articles published and her research has been put to use analyzing the costs, benefits and safety of the roundabouts in Fairmont, W.Va.
James acknowledges fellow students Mehrdad Shahabi, Colin Frosch and David Palley, as well as Unnikrishnan, for their help with her research.
“Rachel is an intelligent, hardworking and humble student,” said Unnikrishnan. “It has been an absolute privilege mentoring her and watching her develop over the last few years.”
“WVU has given me a plethora of opportunities to both build my resume and develop my ‘engineering toolbox,’” said James. “I’ve always been impressed with the attention WVU pays to their undergraduate students.”