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NSF and DoD Graduate Research Fellowships go to IGERT Trainees


Two Drexel University IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) fellows have been offered fellowships from the National Science Foundation and Department of Defense; a third has been named to the Honorable Mention list by the NSF.

Stephen Niezgoda is a member of the Microstructure Sensitive Design (MSD) research group, led by Dr. Surya Kalidindi, in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering. The MSD approach considers micro-scale structure in the development of new materials for particular applications. Niezgoda’s mathematical analysis of microstructure will take much of the guesswork out of material design. Practical experience as an aircraft mechanic taught Niezgoda how to analyze and solve problems, but it also inspired a desire to learn more. Now, as a Ph.D. student, he is able to address the “why” questions. He has published two papers in peer-reviewed journals, with more in production. He has also been involved with several volunteer activities such as tutoring and mentoring undergraduates, and designing and running a hands-on demonstration of nano-composite materials using home-made Silly Putty for the ASM Materials Camp for high school students. Additionally, he has taught a section of MATE 220, the Introduction to Materials for sophomores, for the last two years.

Amy Peterson works in the Polymers & Composites Laboratory, under the direction of Dr. Giuseppe Palmese in the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering. Peterson’s research involves developing remendable, or self-healing, polymer systems. These materials are more durable, safer, and more cost efficient than traditional materials, and their applications range from aerospace and military to automotive and structural. Peterson is a member of the SuperNOVA BS/PhD program, and has been very active in the Summer Mentorship program for high school students, having served as a mentor and a resident assistant. She also volunteers weekly at Blankenburg Middle School in West Philadelphia, and teaches two sections of University 101 to first-year engineering students.

Niezgoda and Peterson were both offered the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the Department of Defense National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

Christopher Hobson was recognized with an Honorable Mention by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Hobson is a member of Dr. Yury Gogotsi’s Nano Materials Group in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering. His research involves the development and characterization of nanodiamond composites for optical and structural applications. Nanodiamond, carbon particles with an average diameter of about 5 nanometers, has the desirable macroscopic properties of carbon (high hardness, thermal conductivity, biocompatibility, and chemical inertness), and the high surface-to-volume ratio of nanoparticles. Better understanding of this material may lead to advances in aerospace, military, construction, automotive, and biomedical applications, among others. Hobson has participated in the high school Summer Mentorship program as a mentor, and is President of the Materials Graduate Network.

Three IGERT fellows (Kris Behler, Derek Halverson, and John Chmiola) have previously received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. Several applicants to the IGERT program have also been awarded NSF and DoD fellowships, including Holly McIlwee of Drexel’s Materials Science and Engineering department this year.

Address Goals

Participation in IGERT prepares students for a lifelong committment to teaching and learning in STEM disciplines. This successful record of external fellowships is just one example of the outstanding quality of the Drexel/Penn IGERT students.