Wednesday, July 3, 2024

NSF fellowships to help seven Roadrunners advance their education

NSF fellowships to help seven Roadrunners advance their education

Ernesto Flores was one of seven Roadrunners awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Flores will advance his graduate research education in physics at Stanford University.

JULY 3, 2024 — Seven UTSA students and alumni have been awarded prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to advance their graduate research education. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.

The NSF GRFP is a highly competitive award granted annually to approximately 2,000 students out of a pool of more than 13,000 applicants from across the U.S. and its territories. The fellowships provide students with a three-year annual stipend of $37,000, along with a $16,000 cost of education allowance, as well as access to opportunities for professional development. The GRFP has a high rate of doctorate degree completion, with more than 70% of students completing their doctorate within 11 years.

UTSA’s award recipients are:

  • Mariah Antopia ’22, biology, accepted at University of Pennsylvania
  • Marissa Coppin ’24, neurosciences, accepted at University of Pennsylvania
  • Ernesto Flores ’24, physics, accepted at Stanford University
  • Luis Flores ’24, chemical engineering, accepted at Johns Hopkins University
  • Brandon Garcia-Castaneda, neurosciences, current UTSA Ph.D. student
  • William Hughes ’24, chemistry, accepted at Colorado State University
  • Enrique Piedra ’23, psychology, accepted UT Health San Antonio

Four of the seven, including Antopia, Coppin, Ernesto Flores and Hughes, are UTSA Honors College students.

In addition, Gabrielle Earley ’21 (neurosciences), Elijah Garcia ’22 (chemical engineering) and Aranis Muniz Perez ’22 (neurosciences) received honorable mentions from the NSF.

“I commend all the GRFP awardees on their impressive achievement,” said Ambika Mathur, senior vice provost for graduate and postdoctoral studies and dean of the UTSA Graduate School. “These awards bring great honor to UTSA and are demonstrative of the exceptional mentoring that students receive at UTSA. Equally important is the dedicated effort of our faculty and staff, who generously provided their time and expertise to assist students and their advisors in submitting successful applications. UTSA continues to exemplify collaborative excellence in promoting student success.”

The GRFP awardees are representative of UTSA’s strong ecosystem, which offers students with experiential learning opportunities such as research that deepen learning and improve career success. The university has a long history of offering comprehensive research training programs that provide students with financial and academic support, hands-on research experience, career development opportunities, and mentorship so they have the knowledge, skills and support to give them a competitive edge when pursuing in doctoral programs and research-intensive careers.

Explore the many hands-on learning opportunities coordinated by UTSA Career-Engaged Learning.
Watch a video about the research opportunities Ernesto Flores has pursued at UTSA.

Most of UTSA’s GFRP awardees participated in at least one of the STEM-centered undergraduate research and training programs housed within the College of Sciences, the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design and the Honors College.

Earley, Ernesto Flores and Perez participated in Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC), a federally funded honors research training program that develops exceptional applicants and trainees for doctoral programs in the behavioral and biomedical sciences, while L. Flores and Piedra participated in the Work Study Research Training Program (WSRTP), a research training program that allows work-study-eligible undergraduates to be paid for performing research in a laboratory. Antopia, Coppin, E. Flores and Hughes participated in the Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Educational Diversity (ESTEEMED) program, which helps first-year and second-year students develop as scholars and scientists by providing academic enrichment, financial support, faculty and peer mentoring, and training in UTSA’s biomedical research laboratories.

Finally, Luis Flores, Perez and Piedra participated in Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE), a federally funded undergraduate research training program that supported UTSA students in the biomedical sciences until its culmination in Spring 2024.

Garcia-Castaneda is currently part of the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program, which provides financial and training support for doctoral students for the first three years of their training.

“They have worked tirelessly to develop the skills and credentials needed to receive this nationally recognized award. This award is a milestone on their pathway to becoming world-class scientists.”

“I am so proud of these UTSA GRFP recipients,” said Gail Taylor, assistant director of the UTSA RISE programs. “They have worked tirelessly to develop the skills and credentials needed to receive this nationally recognized award. This award is a milestone on their pathway to becoming world-class scientists.”

Taylor, who mentored six of the seven awardees, elaborated on the importance of the mentorship offered to students in these research training programs.

“Mentorship is the cornerstone of cultivating confident and successful researchers,” she said. “Learning how to conduct research, what questions to ask and what opportunities to pursue is inherently foreign to most incoming UTSA undergraduates, many of whom are first-generation college students.”

She added, “UTSA has fantastic training programs and tremendously committed faculty and staff who are deeply invested in our students’ well-being in and outside of the lab. Having a support network of mentors is important in every profession, but it’s critical for success for young researchers to mature, transition to graduate studies and enter high-level careers. Through personalized guidance and support, mentors impart essential knowledge and skills and inspire the next generation of innovators. It’s an exceptionally gratifying responsibility that brings me joy every day.”

Learn more about The UTSA Graduate School.
Explore the UTSA Office of Nationally Competitive Awards and its work with UTSA faculty and staff to support students who are eligible for scholarships like the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is the oldest fellowship program in the nation that directly supports graduate students in various STEM fields. Since 1952, NSF has awarded over 60,000 Graduate Research Fellowships from among 500,000 applicants. Currently, 42 Fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates and more than 450 have become members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

Seventy-eight NSF Graduate Research Fellowship awardees have attended UTSA.

Matthew Boerger

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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