Published: April 20, 2022 By

NSF logoThe National Science Foundation has awarded two Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering students with Graduate Research Fellowships and two students with honorable mentions.

The five-year fellowship recognizes outstanding graduate students from across the country in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The award includes three years of financial support including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost of education allowance of $12,000 to the institution.

The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is the oldest graduate fellowship program of its kind. It has a long history of selecting honorees who achieve high levels of success with innovative and impactful research in their future academic and professional careers.

2022 Award Recipients

Catherine Crichton

I am currently a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student at CU Boulder in the BEEM Lab led by Greg Whiting. 

My current research focuses on biosensing through the use of printed, conformal electronics. Specifically, we are designing electronics to study plant responses to different, potentially stressful, environments. 

Applications for my research range from improving plant growth and crop yields for future space missions to monitoring carbon sequestration in large-scale carbon farming endeavors on Earth.  

Tyler Souders

I am a first-year Ph.D. student studying mechanical engineering and working in Peter Hamlington’s Turbulence and Energy Systems Laboratory (TESLa).

My group uses computational fluid dynamics to simulate complicated flows in a wide variety of applications. My research involves simulating flames in extreme environments, such as those found in aviation applications. By using computers to simulate these conditions, we obtain insight into the chemistry and physics in ways that are difficult or impossible to capture using traditional experimental techniques. While simulations give amazing insight, they can be very expensive, and so my group also focuses on techniques and modelling strategies that allow these simulations to be tractable.

Using these simulations, I hope to contribute to our understanding of greener alternatives to typical fuels such as gasoline and jet fuel. I am honored to be a recipient of the NSF GRFP award and look forward to the opportunities that it will provide.

Eli Miller

Honorable Mention

I am a first year PhD student in Mechanical Engineering working with Greg Rieker and the Precision Laser Diagnostics Lab.  

My research centers around using laser absorption spectroscopy to measure methane emissions from thawing permafrost environments.  This summer, I'll be deploying a Dual Frequency Comb Spectrometer near Fairbanks Alaska. Currently, methane emissions are either measured on the ground by-hand or from the air with planes and satellites. 

Our laser will act as a "connective tissue" between these measurement types to further our understanding of arctic methane emissions. Ultimately, my work will be used for inputs and validations of climate models as well as enabling this new tool to be used in future field campaigns. 

Brittany Nixon

Honorable Mention

I am a first-year graduate student working toward a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. I am co-advised by Marina Vance and Mike Hannigan at CU, and by Mike DeCeglie at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 

My research objectives are to examine data from dirty (or soiled) solar panels, and predict the effects of soiling using regional air quality data. When solar panels get soiled, their energy yield decreases. Particulate matter on panel surfaces is the main driver of soiling. Specifically, I am analyzing data from Los Angeles, and developing a model to predict solar panel soiling performance.

The goal is to use readily available air quality data to predict soiling risk, so solar developers and owners could better plan mitigation strategies, such as planned cleanings.

Shreya Venkatesh

Honorable Mention

I am a first-year PhD student in mechanical engineering working in Dr. Maureen Lynch’s lab. I'm enthusiastic about advancing biomedical research using engineering methods and communicating that science effectively.

Currently, I am studying how breast cancer cells respond to mechanical loading by generating computer simulations of the fluid stresses these cells experience within bone-mimicking scaffolds.