The Jonsson School

Jonsson School Recognizes 2020 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows

Rankings

In 2020, alumni and current students from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at The University of Texas at Dallas were awarded a record eight Graduate Research Fellowships, as well as one Honorable Mention. The prestigious, competitive award from the National Science Foundation will fund their studies and research as they pursue future careers in academia as well as industry research and development. Past recipients include Nobel Prize winners and other leaders in scientific research.

NSF Fellows are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering. These individuals are crucial to maintaining and advancing the nation's technological infrastructure and national security as well as contributing to the economic well-being of society at large.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Whether the students will continue their studies at UT Dallas or institutions such as Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University, their talents have been nurtured by the research opportunities and mentorship during their time here.



Benjamin Allsup Wesley Brigner Keene Chin Asim Gazi Dana Jenkins Danny Lam Dolly Mantle Austin Mordahl Benjamin Weldon
Benjamin Allsup Wesley Brigner Keene Chin Dana Jenkins Dolly Mantle Asim Gazi Danny Lam Austin Mordahl Benjamin Weldon

Benjamin Allsup (Honorable Mention)
BS in Biomedical Engineering, 2020

Wesley Hayden Brigner
BS in Electrical Engineering, 2020

Keene Anthony Chin ’18
PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science, Robotics Institute”

Dana Jenkins ’18
BS in Biomedical Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

Dorothy (Dolly) Mantle
BS in Mechanical Engineering, 2020

Asim Hossain Gazi ’18
BS in Electrical Engineering PhD student in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Georgia Tech

Danny Lam ’18
BS in Biomedical Engineering
PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University

Austin Mordahl ’18
PhD student in Software Engineering at UT Dallas

Benjamin Weldon
BS in Mechanical Engineering, 2020

What are your future plans?
As a PhD student at UTD, I will continue my research into neuromorphic systems and will hopefully implement a fully functional neural network in collaboration with groups at UT Austin and Sandia National Laboratories. I hope to find a professorship, which will allow me to continue conducting research in the field of beyond-CMOS computing as well as fulfill my love of teaching.

What was your most memorable experience at UT Dallas?
I truly enjoyed my undergraduate time here at UT Dallas. The university feels like a second home to me. Some of my most memorable experiences here at UTD were the Honors College social events known as 'Honors Night Out,' at which members attend classical concerts, opera performances, or other venues together in addition to a group dinner preceding the chosen performance.

How has UT Dallas helped you achieve your goals?
As I progressed through the electrical engineering coursework, I realized that it was more satisfying than I could have ever hoped for, but one aspect was missing – the ability to develop my own ideas. This all changed when I joined Dr. Joseph Friedman’s NeuroSpinCompute laboratory. Dr. Friedman has really been the catalyst in me finding my true passion!

What are your future plans?
Next year, I am attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue a PhD in biological engineering. There, I am hoping to work in the field of systems immunology to develop predictive models for immune interactions.

What was your most memorable experience at UT Dallas?
My most memorable experiences at UT Dallas include working as a tutor in the Student Success Center, studying as a Green Fellow, meeting people through Student Ambassadors, and getting the chance to live with my best friends. I was lucky to get to know new people every semester and find those who pushed me to grow in many different ways.

How has UT Dallas helped you achieve your goals?
Older students and several mentors whom I met through UT Dallas were very impactful in helping me to get to graduate school. Sydney Sherman BS’19 especially helped me as a mentor and role model and gave me an idea of what a career in research looks like for a student in biomedical engineering. Dr. Stuart Ravnik at UT Southwestern Medical Center helped me realize my early interests in new fields of biomedical science through the Green Fellowship program. Dr. Eric Kildebeck and Dr. Thomas Leung gave me the independence in my research projects to develop myself as a scientist, teaching me to think critically and independently. Thank you all!

What are your future plans?
My research interests are in soft robotics, artificial intelligence and open/accessible hardware. One project that I am excited to work on in the near future is implementing machine learning for controlling the movement of PATRICK, a soft brittlestar-inspired robot.

What was your most memorable experience at UT Dallas?
It's hard to pick a most memorable experience, but I'd probably point to the late-night marathon karaoke session in the Honors College lounge after midterms.

How has UT Dallas helped you achieve your goals?
I'm lucky to have had many wonderful mentors during my time at UT Dallas. Michael Seeligson, the director of my scholarship program, helped inspire in me a desire to build up my community any way I could. Dr. Ann Majewicz Fey, my first research advisor, was instrumental in helping me start to find my feet in the academic space.

What are your future plans?
I will continue my doctorate training in biomedical engineering with Dr. Elizabeth Cosgriff-Hernandez at UT Austin. I am currently exploring ways to improve the bone healing potential of synthetic polymer bone grafts.

What was your most memorable experience at UT Dallas?
I had a great time hosting Alpha Phi Omega's annual Math and Science Camp to promote STEM subjects to local Richardson students.

How has UT Dallas helped you achieve your goals?
My undergraduate research mentor, Dr. Michael Burton, pushed me to become a better scientist and leader. Thanks to him and his team, I found a home that fostered my love for scientific research.

What are your future plans?
I will continue graduate studies at Stanford University with an MS in mechanical engineering. My long-term goal is to work in industry.

What was your most memorable experience at UT Dallas?
I was a commuter my freshman year, and as a female, I really wasn't sure about going down the engineering track. Honestly, the first day of classes was a bit rough. I remember Rohit (now two-year president of AIAA and a friend I made during freshman orientation) came up to me after my last class of the day just to say hello, and that brought the reassurance I needed to continue. You never know what a simple smile can do.

How has UT Dallas helped you achieve your goals?
During sophomore year, I worked in Dr. Carlos Busso's Multimodal Signal Processing lab to develop a model to predict a driver's level of cognitive distraction given the driver's facial action units. He was the first one to push me to think in a research mindset and helped me better explain the why and how of everything I did.

I hardly said no to a given opportunity, and through on-campus jobs, clubs and organizations, I have gained valuable insights from a very diverse collection of peers and faculty. I loved my experience here because of the people I have met and the opportunities I took.

What are your future plans?
I plan to be a professor at an R1 research institution, devoting my life to the technological exploration and modulation of human emotion and cognition with the goal of preserving and improving societal mental health and performance.

What was your most memorable experience at UT Dallas?
The most memorable would be a tossup between my time at the Student Success Center, working with a number of bright individuals, including my younger brother Najib, and senior design. I could not have asked for a better team to work with; the entire process taught me an important lesson on the limitless collective power of a cohesive team.

How has UT Dallas helped you achieve your goals?
An academic institution is not defined by its buildings, resources, or national rank for that matter; it's defined by its people. UT Dallas has some of the most altruistic and mentorship-oriented faculty. I don't just have one mentor worth thanking. The most influential have been Dr. Jeong-Bong Lee, Dr. Carlos Busso, Dr. James Florence and Dr. Neal Skinner.

What are your future plans?
My short-term goals are to complete my PhD at Case Western Reserve University and contribute to our current understanding of the immune response to biomedical implants, particularly to neural implants, to sustain their functional performances. With that in mind, I expect to continue a path of research and development and assist in the translation of neural interfacing applications from the bench to the bedside. I also wish to continue my ongoing investment into the future of underrepresented minorities within the STEM field through community-led activities.

What was your most memorable experience at UT Dallas?
My most memorable experience at UT Dallas was the sense of community each passing day on campus. I enjoyed experiencing each others’ cultures, the opportunity to express who we are as an individual, and the investment, academic support and mentorship from my previous UTD instructors.

How has UT Dallas helped you achieve your goals?
UT Dallas has helped reinforce the idea of community and that people are generally more than willing to help you out in times of stress and anxiety. My academic achievements, community outreach and contributions to research are attributed to great mentors from UT Dallas who reinforced the idea of higher education as an attainable goal, rather than an unrealistic dream.

What are your future plans?
After I graduate, I plan to stay in academia and continue my research into the automatic detection bugs and privacy violations in the software we use and rely on daily. Being a professor has been my dream since I was a kid, and I feel so fortunate to have the support of the NSF GRF to achieve that goal.

What was your most memorable experience at UT Dallas?
It was definitely getting the email that I was accepted into the UT Dallas PhD program in software engineering. That week I had already received two rejections to other programs, so I was incredibly anxious that I would have to put my dream on the back burner. When I got the email while I was in class, I ran out of the room and cried in the hallway; it probably looked like I got some really bad news!

How has UT Dallas helped you achieve your goals?
Without a doubt, my faculty supervisor, Dr. Shiyi Wei, has been the most valuable resource to me in my studies. He has pushed me to achieve more and work harder than I ever have before. At the same time, he has never once failed to be there for me when I needed help, whether that be more technological resources, going over something I’ve written, or pointing me to other resources I might need. He’s one of the main people I want to emulate when I become a professor myself.

What are your future plans?
I will attend Stanford University to earn a PhD in aeronautical and astronautical engineering starting in the fall. I hope to study autonomous systems and decision making. Long term, I plan to work in academia or national labs.

What was your most memorable experience at UT Dallas?
I enjoyed competing with the UT Dallas fencing team throughout undergrad. I had never fenced in high school, but fencing became an integral part of my experience. I loved getting to train and compete with the club team.

How has UT Dallas helped you achieve your goals?
I learned a lot, received valuable teaching experience, and was even able to give back to the UT Dallas community as an SI leader for thermodynamics under Dr. Hui Ouyang. Dr. Ouyang, along with Dr. Todd Griffith, encouraged me to find research opportunities and helped me through the graduate school application process.