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The National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) is awarded to promising graduate students throughout the nation each year to fund their research. Three UT ME students have been awarded this prestigious honor this year.

The Program

The program supports graduate students engaged in research in NSF-supported science programs. As part of the program, fellows receive the following:

  • Three years of support
  • $30,000 annual stipend
  • $10,500 cost-of-education allowance
  • $1,000 one time international travel allowance
  • TeraGrid Supercomputer access

The three UT ME students who have been made GRFP Fellows this year are Julia O'Rourke, Karen Kirk, and Chioke Harris.

Julia O'Rourke

Julia O'Rourke

Julia O'Rourke is a new Graduate Research Fellowship recipient.

Julia is in the Manufacturing and Design group working on biomimetic design. Biomimetic systems are engineered systems which are inspired by biological systems. Julia examines the impacts of biomimetic designs, comparing them to standard designs that perform the same function. She hopes to determine how a product might benefit, from an environmental prospective, by incorporating biological analogies. She plans to develop a step-by-step methodology for sustainable biomimetic design.

Julia received her bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and began her current studies at UT in the fall of 2009. She is advised by Dr. Carolyn Seepersad, and expects to graduate in 2014.

About being made a Fellow, Julia said:

I am very grateful that I have been given this honor. It will provide me with the freedom to work on research problems that I find particularly intellectually-stimulating.

Karen Kirk

Karen Kirk

Karen Kirk is a new Graduate Research Fellowship recipient.

Karen's major area of research involves acoustics, focusing on acoustic microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). MEMS devices integrate mechanical elements, sensors and other electronics on a silicon chip. Karen's research goal is to introduce MEMS devices into hearing aids to make them easier to manufacture, able to support more features, and be more affordable.

Karen received her bachelor's degree from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama and began her graduate studies at UT in the fall of 2009. She is advised by Dr. Neal Hall. Dr. Hall is an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. His research areas include silicon micromachining, optics and photonics, acoustics and dynamics, and advanced transducer development.

Karen plans to get her master's degree by 2011, and a Ph.D. by 2013.

When asked about receiving the Fellowship, Karen said:

I feel extremely honored and blessed to be a recipient of an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship! My motivation and passion for this research is fueled by the desire to make a difference in the lives of the millions of hearing-impaired members in our society. With this fellowship I feel that I now have a greater honor, and with that comes the greater responsibility, of being an ambassador for The University of Texas as well as for the United States. I promise to do everything I can to perform my research in MEMS hearing aid development with diligence and excellence and to uphold the overall goal of making a difference in society.

Chioke Harris

Chioke Harris

Chioke Harris is a new Graduate Research Fellowship recipient.

Chioke is developing a model to study the role energy storage can play in the electrical grid. His initial research focuses on Austin Energy and hopes to determine how energy storage might enable cities to achieve greater targets for greater use of renewable energy sources, such as wind power, thus reducing the need for fossil-fueled generators. He plans to apply these methods to broader studies of how energy storage can, along with improved transmission infrastructure and various smart grid technologies, enable future growth in installed renewable energy generation.

Chioke received his bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University in 2008. He began his studies at UT in the Fall of 2008, and he is advised by Dr. Michael Webber and Dr. Jeremy Meyers. He will complete his Master's degree in August 2010 and plans to complete his Ph.D. in May 2013.

When asked about his feelings about being made a Fellow, Chioke said:

I am flattered and humbled that I have been selected for one of the highest honors one can receive as a graduate student. It emboldens me to continue my research in renewable energy systems and affirms my decision to pursue a Ph.D. in this area. I look forward to the newly available opportunities afforded me as a Fellow and I plan to leverage these opportunities in my efforts to improve the future of renewable energy generation in the electric grid and, ultimately, work toward a future where our daily lives no longer profoundly disrupt the world that we call home.


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