News Release

UT Arlington grad student earns fellowship from atomic energy agency

Nepalese student says climate change impacts at home fuel her drive to study science

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Texas at Arlington

Suprina Shrestha conducting research at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden


Suprina Shrestha conducting research at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden

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Credit: Photo courtesy University of Texas at Arlington

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has awarded a prestigious fellowship aimed at encouraging women to study nuclear-related subjects to a University of Texas at Arlington graduate student researching isotope hydrology.

Suprina Shrestha, a master’s student in earth and environmental sciences, received a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship (MSCF) from the IAEA. She studies tracer hydrology, which is the use of natural and artificial tracers to examine hydrological processes, under the mentorship of Ricardo Sanchez-Murillo, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Shrestha said the fellowship will greatly influence her career development in the field of isotope hydrology.

“As a foreign student and mother of a young child from Nepal, this fellowship serves as a crucial financial support system, covering various expenses such as tuition fees, research costs, stipends and other essential expenditures,” she said. “With these financial burdens alleviated, I can dedicate myself wholeheartedly to my studies and research endeavors.”

The fellowship also provides opportunities for internships, intensive networking, and conferences. In early March, she attended a workshop at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, in honor of International Women's Day.

“Winning the fellowship evoked a range of emotions in me; I was excited, motivated and relieved,” Shrestha said. “Above all, I was filled with deep gratitude toward the IAEA MSCF for granting me this prestigious fellowship and toward my mentor and supervisor, Dr. Sanchez, whose encouragement and inspiration drove me to pursue this opportunity.”

Shrestha’s current isotope hydrology project involves evaluating how urban endemic plants across north-central Texas uptake water by using water isotopologues, which are molecules where one of the atoms is replaced by its isotope. An isotope is an atom that has the same number of protons and electrons but a different number of neutrons.

“My research centers on investigating whether there are disparities in isotopic composition among different plant tissues, such as roots and stems, despite their access to the same water source,” she said. “If such inconsistencies exist, I aim to uncover the factors contributing to them. Furthermore, I'm delving deeper to explore if there is potential variability within the root or stem systems themselves.”

Calling the fellowship “highly competitive and prestigious,” Sanchez-Murillo said the IAEA's primary mission is the use of nuclear techniques for peaceful purposes. This includes nuclear energy, food, health and environmental studies.

“I have been impressed by Suprina’s commitment to conducting high-quality research,” he said.

Shrestha was born and raised in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, which is located in a valley surrounded by the Himalayas. She grew up with a love for nature and outdoor adventures, she said.

“Nepal’s incredibly diverse ecosystems and abundant natural resources coexist with the harsh realities of climate change, including glacial melting, water scarcity and natural disasters like landslides and floods,” she said. “Witnessing these impacts firsthand has fueled my determination to study environmental science.”

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