News Release 

University of Houston students, alumni earn prestigious NSF graduate research fellowships

Recipients pursue varied fields from augmented reality to history of Mars

University of Houston

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IMAGE: At left, Jose Daniel Velazco-Garcia is using augmented reality to analyze medical data in real time as he pursues a Ph.D. in computer science at UH. Top right UH geology... view more 

Credit: University of Houston

Six current and former University of Houston students have earned highly coveted National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research fellowships.

The fellowships recognize outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) who are pursuing research-based masters and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees.

"Winning the most competitive graduate fellowship competition in the USA is a testament to the innovative thinking of our graduate students and the depth and breadth of their educational experience at UH," said Amr Elnashai, vice president for Research and Technology Transfer. "NSF graduate fellows contribute to shaping the new innovation ecosystem, and UH students will no doubt make their mark on their respective fields."

The NSF fellowship has been credited with inspiring recipients to become life-long influencers who contribute meaningfully to both scientific innovation and teaching. Many Nobel Laureates are past fellows as are Google Co-founder Sergey Brin and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.

The University of Houston graduate recipients are:

Faheem Ershad

After receiving a bachelor of science from UH in biomedical engineering, Ershad is now pursuing a Ph.D. in the same field at UH. His research proposes to develop soft neural interface devices and he focuses on stretchable and flexible electronics for biomedical applications, hoping to create new technologies for use in health care and medicine.

Jose Daniel Velazco-Garcia

Velazco-Garcia graduated from UH-Clear Lake with a bachelor of science in computer science. He is now pursuing a Ph.D. in computer science at UH. His research focuses on visualization, manipulation and analysis of medical data in real-time using augmented reality.

Stephanie Suarez

At UH, Suarez is expected to receive her masters of science in geology in the summer of 2019 and begin her Ph.D. in the same field this fall. Her work has focused on petrology, a subcategory of geosciences that involves the composition of rocks. To understand the nature and timing of volcanic activity on Mars, Suarez is analyzing a group of 11 meteorites, volcanic in origin, that were ejected from the surface of Mars 1.1 million years ago, falling to Earth at various times.

Audrey Wang

In May Wang is set to graduate UH with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering. Her research focuses on using high performance computing to investigate structure-function relationships in solid-state electrolytes for applications in solid-state batteries. Wang has declined the NSF award and will join the automation company ABB which operates in robotics, power, heavy electrical equipment and automation technology.

Former UH student recipients now studying elsewhere are:

Erin Miller

Miller graduated from UH with a bachelor of science in geology. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in marine science at the University of Southern Mississippi - Division of Marine Science, Stennis Space Center. She is broadly researching, from shoreline to shelf edge, the response of barrier island systems to both hurricanes and sea level rise.

Thao T. Nguyen

After receiving a bachelor of science degree in psychology at UH, Nguyen is a doctoral student in the Human Development and Family Studies department at the University of Texas at Austin. She is primarily interested in how stress impedes healthy romantic relationship functioning (e.g., stress spillover), as well as understanding the factors that may protect couples from stress spillover effects.

James Sutjianto

Currently a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering at Pennsylvania State University, Sutjianto graduated from UH with a degree in chemical engineering. While at UH he was a research assistant investigating zeolite crystals' growth mechanisms, properties, and rational design for the improvement of zeolite crystals. His current area of research is in the design, synthesis, and characterization of conductive polymers for flexible electronics.

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