UAlbany Students Earn NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

The Prestigious Program Recognizes and Supports Graduate Students in STEM

From left: Chelsea Elizabeth Snide, Heather Sussman and Allix Marie Coon. (Photo by Mike Nolan)

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 23, 2019) – Two UAlbany student researchers, both in the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (DAES), are recipients of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship for 2019. Another two students were selected as honorable mentions.

Founded in 1951, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is the country’s oldest fellowship program that directly supports graduate students in various science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The program provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period, which amounts to a $34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution.

This year, fellowships were awarded to 2,050 students around the country; more than 1,500 students received honorable mentions. NSF has funded more than 50,000 Graduate Research Fellowships from more than 500,000 applicants since 1952.

UAlbany’s 2019 fellowship winners include senior Aleks Siemenn, a double major in environmental science and mathematics, who will graduate this May, and Heather Sussman, a second-year Ph.D. student in atmospheric science and meteorology. Honorable mentions include Allix Marie Coon, a first-year Ph.D. student in chemistry and senior Chelsea Elizabeth Snide, an atmospheric science major, who is also graduating this May.

“These students are among the best and the brightest of our graduate students,” said Jeanette Altarriba, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The fact that they were recognized by this prestigious and honorable organization symbolizes their success on a national level. It serves as a testament to the hard work and efforts they have put into their research and the guidance provided by their faculty research mentors.”

“The National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships are extremely competitive because they assess both academic potential and ability to develop a research proposal,” added Ryan Torn, chair of DAES. “It is very satisfying to see our degree programs represented. It speaks to the caliber of our students and program offerings.”

UAlbany senior Aleks Siemenn views his climate modeling on a laptop in University Hall.

Aleks Siemenn (pictured above) will be attending MIT this fall to pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

Aleks Siemenn

Siemenn studies marine energy technologies, specifically Wave Energy Converters (WECs). WECs have potential for electrical energy generation that vary depending on the design of the system and how it functions due to the physics of fluids. His research addresses gaps in developing low-cost,
low-impact, resilient small-scale WECs through fluid mechanics simulation, economic analysis, geographic life cycle assessment and climate modeling.

Siemenn also was awarded the Department of Defense’s SMART Scholarship and will be attending MIT this fall to pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering.

“This fellowship removes the economic barriers to entry for graduate programs,” Siemenn said. “I’d like to combine computational methods with experimental methods to analyze and design small-scale wave energy converters. By receiving external funding, it is much more likely that I will be able to explore this experimental prototype testing.”

Heather Sussman

Sussman, who is advised by DAES professor Aiguo Dai, is using climate modeling experiments to determine how characteristics of weather events in the northern midlatitudes (i.e., 40°N to 60°N) could change in future climates. After completing this project, she plans to investigate what aspects of the global climate system could be the drivers behind these anticipated changes in weather variability.

She also was awarded the Department of Defense’s SMART Scholarship.

“Receiving this fellowship means that the NSF wants to invest their resources in me to complete my degree. By doing so, they believe I have the necessary skillset to become a scientist that not only produces top quality research, but is also a versatile and effective leader,” Sussman said. “I take great pride in knowing that the NSF sees these qualities in me at an early stage in my career.”

Allix Marie Coon

Coon, who is advised by Rabi Musah, a professor of chemistry, focuses her research on the application of mass spectrometric techniques to study disease progression and diagnostics. Ultimately, her research will lead to new knowledge on diagnostic biomarkers, and the development of non-invasive tools for disease diagnosis.

“As a first-generation college student, it is exciting to have been recognized by a national organization for my potential as a scientist. This honor will provide me with multiple opportunities as I move toward my goal of becoming a successful scientist and mentor of women in STEM,” Coon said.

Chelsea Elizabeth Snide

Snide is observing tropical winds and performing experiments using the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Earth System Model (CESM) to analyze a linkage between the subtropical jet stream and Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO). Several times a year, the MJO is a strong contributor to various extreme weather events in the United States.

“Receiving honorable mention has been a tremendous recognition to my dedication and passion for large scale atmospheric dynamics. It has given me confidence to continue working and researching in this field,” Snide said.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.