UMBC’s 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellows prepare for groundbreaking careers, from environmental engineering to computer science

Published: May 12, 2017

A profess and student do an experiment in a lab, wearing protective gear
Lee Blaney, and Daniel Ocasio 17, chemical engineering, working in the lab.

Three current undergraduate students and one recent alumna have received highly competitive National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Awards for 2017.

Daniel Ocasio ‘17, chemical engineering; Matthew Landen ‘17, computer science; Brandon Enriquez ‘17, economics and mathematics; and Hollie Adejumo ‘16, chemical engineering, all received fellowships.                 

“UMBC is proud to have four of our undergraduate students and alumni chosen for this nationally competitive award — selected from over 13,000 applicants– to support their graduate study that will lead to research-based master’s or doctoral degrees in science and engineering,” said April Householder, director of undergraduate research and nationally competitive scholarships. “Daniel, Matthew, Brandon, and Hollie affirm UMBC’s commitment to the twin goals of undergraduate research and a distinctive undergraduate experience, and we look forward to what they will accomplish in graduate school and their careers.”

Ocasio will use the fellowship funding to support a Ph.D. in environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He will study chemical contaminants in different kinds of water sources, and will develop technologies to treat the chemicals in the water for reuse applications. His work will include research with graywater, which is water from bathroom sinks, tubs, showers and washing machines. Repurposing both wastewater and graywater for drinking and other uses can help areas affected by water shortages manage water resources effectively.

“Being selected for the NSF GRFP, to me, is reassurance that I am prepared to excel in my graduate studies,” Ocasio said. “This opportunity will afford me freedom in my graduate research to pursue topics that may not otherwise get attention.”

In addition to the NSF GRF, Ocasio received the Ford Foundation Fellowship from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Ford Foundation Fellowships aim to increase faculty diversity at institutions across the United States. Ocasio also received the National GEM Consortium Fellowship, which enables underrepresented minority students to pursue graduate education in science and engineering.

Landen will pursue his Ph.D. in computer science, with a focus on security and privacy issues, at Georgia Tech in the fall.

“By joining this community of scholars, I know I would have the ability to excel in a scientific environment by engaging in collaboration with fellows of diverse experiences to create novel discoveries,” Landen said.

Enriquez will pursue his Ph.D. in economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During his time at UMBC, he particularly values “how I am pushed by mentors to be innovative and creative,” he explains.

Beginning in fall 2017, Adejumo will pursue her Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan. Her research will focus on environmental biotechnology and water quality.

“I am both very humbled and honored to receive the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship,” she said. “This award will provide me with the flexibility and support that I need to pursue my interests and develop my research skillset.”

Adejumo also thanked her research collaborators and mentors, particularly Lee Blaney assistant professor of chemical, biochemical, and environmental engineering. “I attribute my success to their support,” she says.

This year’s range of NSF Graduate Research Fellowship awards continues a strong trend for UMBC. In 2016, six UMBC students and alumni from a diverse set of majors received the fellowship to pursue graduate study at Harvard Medical School and Stanford University School of Medicine, among other leading institutions.

Image: Daniel Ocasio, right, working alongside Lee Blaney, assistant professor of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering, in the lab. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

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