Two Mines PhD students and four recent graduates are among the 2020 winners of the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
The program, which started in 1952 shortly after Congress established the NSF, is the oldest continuous graduate fellowship of its kind. It provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated potential for significant achievements in the STEM disciplines.
The 2020 NSF Graduate Research Fellows at Mines are:
Breanne Hammett, a PhD student in materials science, is working with Ryan Richards, professor of chemistry and director of the joint Mines/NREL NEXUS Center.
“My research focus is on tuning the phase transitions in thin film materials to optimize them for use in non-volatile resistive switches,” Hammett said.
Vanessa Meschke, a PhD student in materials science, is working with Vladan Stevanovic, assistant professor of metallurgical and materials engineering, and Eric Toberer, associate professor of physics, on research focused on discovering new materials that would likely be a novel phase of matter known as a quantum spin liquid (QSL) and particularly those that form a kagome lattice.
“QSLs are materials that have magnetic moments with no long-range ordering, even at temperatures of zero degrees Kelvin, creating interesting magnetic properties that have yet to be fully explored,” Meschke said. “QSLs have not been proven to exist, but would be useful in applications for quantum computing and the discovery of new topological materials or superconductors.”
Three 2019-2020 Mines graduates received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships to conduct their PhD studies elsewhere:
Erin Burrell, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, is pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan.
“I will be researching the breakup of the liquid droplets as they interact with a shock wave,” Burrell said. “I will be looking into the size and phase of the droplets as well as how the droplets affect different boundary layers.”
Hannah Lee, who graduated in December 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, is attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where she is working under Nancy D. Amato, head of the Department of Computer Science and Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering, with a focus on developing task and motion planning algorithms.
“Motion planning, also known as path planning, is a computation problem where one finds a sequence of valid configurations that moves an agent from the source to destination. Task planning algorithms deal with intelligently allocating work to a group of agents, such that all tasks are safely and efficiently completed,” Lee said. “Task and motion planning is a field that strives to improve the ease of work and life for humans through methods that solve real-world problems. We are interested in developing algorithmic solutions for problems in areas such as computational biology, animation and robotics.”
Leah Reeder, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in computational and applied mathematics, is studying computational and mathematical engineering at Stanford University.
“I will begin research this fall in developing machine learning algorithms for large-scale multiphysics simulations,” Reeder said. “My research interests are in numerical analysis and neural-inspired computing and my NSF proposal was on using neuromorphic computing advantages in numerical analysis.”
Also receiving a 2020 NSF Graduate Fellowship was Chloe Archuleta, who graduated from Mines in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biological engineering. Archuleta is conducting her PhD studies at Northwestern University.