Physics, chemical engineering students earn $100,000 NSF Fellowships

Friday, April 09, 2010

NSF Graduate Research Fellowships are one of the most generous nationally competitive scholarships and carry great prestige

University of Tulsa seniors Erin Stranford and Kyle Klavetter have received National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships worth more than $100,000.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowships are one of the most generous nationally competitive scholarships and carry great prestige. Since 1995, The University of Tulsa has received 31 NSF fellowships — averaging more than two student awards per year.

Fellows receive three years of support, which includes:

  • an annual $30,000 stipend;
  • $10,500 cost-of-education allowance; 
  • $1,000 one time international travel allowance; and
  • access to the TeraGrid Supercomputer, the world's largest, most comprehensive distributed cyber infrastructure for open scientific research.

Erin Stranford will graduate this May with degrees in both physics and applied mathematics. A native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, she came to TU as a National Merit Finalist and received the TU Presidential Scholarship, the university’s most prestigious student award.

She will begin her graduate studies next year at Cornell and plans to complete her Ph.D. in optical physics. Her professional goal is to become a research scientist and professor at the university level specializing in quantum optics.

Stranford is an officer in the Society of Physics Students and has been actively involved with the Journal Club, the TU physics department’s outreach program for local high school students. Her undergraduate research at TU investigates new ways to detect environmental toxins through chemical sensing waves — research that helped her prepare for the NSF fellowship and beyond.

“A main component of the NSF application is describing past research experiences, so I was able to discuss the research I have done at TU and at summer internships,” Stranford said.

Working with her faculty mentor, Associate Professor Scott Holmstrom, her research is a collaborative effort with the Naval Research Laboratories and Johns Hopkins University. She also has conducted research at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and at the University of Colorado.

Kyle Klavetter is a TU Presidential Scholar from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and will graduate in May with a degree in chemical engineering. He is currently studying abroad in New Zealand, and this fall he will begin graduate studies at the University of Texas.

Klavetter attributed his success to his faculty mentor Selen Cremaschi, assistant professor of chemical engineering: “Dr. Cremaschi is a pivotal figure in my development as an engineer, both inspiring me to consider entirely new realms of science and challenging me to grow as a researcher and student,” Klavetter said.

On a broader scale, he said his achievement was tied to TU as an “institution with a mission and tradition that recognizes the importance of individual innovation serving the national interest, bettering the country.”

Klavetter interned at the Sandia National Laboratories in the electrochemistry multigroup and helped develop a new approach for enhanced signal resolution for large format focal plane arrays. Focal plane arrays can be used to sense a wide spectrum of wavelengths and improve imaging devices.

Outside of the lab, Klavetter was the founding editor of the award-winning independent campus newspaper Sixthirtyone, and he expanded the newspaper to a Web edition. 

Klavetter and Stranford join a recent TU graduate in this year’s NSF honors: Clara Seaman (BS ’09) is currently completing her first year of graduate studies in mechanical engineering at Notre Dame and was recently notified of her NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

With their NSF Fellowships, Klavetter and Stranford join a growing list of TU students who have earned nationally competitive scholarships. Since 1995, TU students have received 46 Goldwater, 9 Truman, 4 Marshall, and 6 Udall scholarships; and 31 National Science Foundation, 7 Department of Defense, 7 Fulbright and 8 Phi Kappa Phi fellowships.

Amethyst Cavallaro