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Students and Alumna Earn National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships
Four Syracuse University students have been awarded prestigious graduate research fellowships through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), and two students were recognized with Honorable Mentions. The fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in the U.S. The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support, including an annual stipend of $34,000.
The 2022 recipients of the NSF GRFP are:
- Katelyn Bajorek ’21, an alumna of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs with degrees in history and anthropology and member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program;
- David Coghiel ’22, a civil engineering major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS);
- Odlanyer Hernández de Lara, a Ph.D. student in anthropology in the Maxwell School; and
- Zhuoqi Tong ’22, a double major in applied mathematics and bioengineering in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering and Computer Science and member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program.
Katelyn Bajorek ’21
Bajorek studies medieval history and human osteology, with a research focus on the intersections of medieval medicine and religion. This fellowship will allow her to pursue her Ph.D. in medieval studies at Cornell University and provide important professional advancement resources to further her academic career. With a passion for fieldwork, Bajorek hopes to one day work as an archaeological field director at medieval cemetery sites.
“As a child, I was fascinated by books about dinosaurs and Egyptian mummies,” she says. “An archaeological field school with Dr. Guido Pezzarossi in 2018 showed me that a career in archaeology was possible in real life. I envision that a significant portion of my career will be spent leading excavations. I eventually want to become a professor of medieval archaeology, where I can direct a teaching lab of new generations of students.”
David Coghiel ’22
Coghiel’s interest in civil engineering blossomed as he was growing up in New York City, where construction projects were a constant presence. He recalls being curious about what was being developed and excited about seeing the finished products. “I realized that all projects were meant to keep people safe and healthy—and as I got older, I decided that I wanted to use my passion for engineering to help create a safe and sustainable future for all,” he says.
With the support of the NSF GRFP, Coghiel plans to conduct research on the environmental impacts of carbon dioxide emissions from construction sites and determine whether there are more sustainable practices to implement in construction scheduling. During his undergraduate career, he participated in mentorship via the WellsLink Leadership Program and worked as a lab assistant under ECS professors Cliff Davidson and Svetoslava Todorova, both experiences he says will positively impact his career.
“Working directly with engineering professors taught me numerous practices that I plan to implement in my own research project and future engineering career,” Coghiel says.
Through his research, he seeks to find ways to provide healthier airspaces for all, especially underserved communities that are often adversely affected by construction pollution.
Odlanyer Hernández de Lara
Hernández de Lara has been interested in archaeology since volunteering with the Cuban Speleological Society in his home country of Cuba. Pursuing his Ph.D. in anthropology with a focus on historical archaeology, his research interests include conflict and battlefield archaeology and the archaeology of the contemporary past, heritage and memory. Hernández de Lara says the NSF fellowship will support his doctoral research, and potentially open the door for future grants to continue developing his research project.
“I have met great professionals at SU who have expanded my limits in unexpected ways,” says Hernández de Lara. “Interacting with professors and other graduate students in the Department of Anthropology and the Maxwell School as a whole contributed to shaping my approach to the discipline, and life in general.”
He hopes to ultimately become a college or university professional, with a significant interest in museums, historic preservation agencies and other public service positions in archaeology.
Zhuoqi Tong ’22
Tong will graduate from Syracuse next month and go on to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was drawn to biomedical engineering and a research interest in immunoengineering from an early age and aspires to have a long career working toward defeating cancer and other diseases.
“The NSF fellowship provides students and their graduate institutions with a generous amount of money to support independent and creative research, giving students more flexibility to explore research directions which may not be fully supported under a faculty grant,” Tong says. “Now I can carefully think about what I want to do research on for my Ph.D., finding gaps in the existing research on cancer treatment options and aligning my research accordingly.”
He acknowledges his work in the lab of professor Jay Henderson, as well as mentorship from professor Henderson and professor Julie Hasenwinkel, as being crucial for his success. Tong’s long-term goals are to teach and mentor undergraduate and graduate students as a professor of biomedical engineering and to start his own lab to continue next-generation cancer research with curative potential.
Abigail McCarthy and Karma Thomas
Two students also received Honorable Mentions in this year’s NSF GRFP competition. Abigail McCarthy, a master’s student in Earth sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, is researching new methods to evaluate flood risk using high-throughput computing, especially regarding flood risk for socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Karma Thomas is a Ph.D. student in biology in the College of Arts and Sciences and member of the Althoff Lab, whose research interests include the ecology and evolution of insects and their interactions with plants.
Upcoming Learning Opportunities for Faculty
The associate provost for academic affairs and the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) will host several faculty sessions to share ideas about how to increase the number of Syracuse University graduate and undergraduate students applying to the NSF GRFP. The sessions are as follows:
- Tuesday, April 26, 3 p.m., Katzer Collaboratory-347 Hinds Hall
- Tuesday, May 3, 3 p.m., Katzer Collaboratory-347 Hinds Hall
- Monday, May 9, 2 p.m., 243A Hinds Hall
Any of the three sessions can also be joined virtually via Zoom. CFSA staff will provide a brief overview of the NSF GRFP award and the support the University currently offers to students undertaking the application. The majority of each session will be devoted to learning about faculty experiences with the program and discussing ideas to increase the number of applications.
Students interested in learning more about or applying for the next NSF GRFP award cycle or any other nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships should visit the CFSA website or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.