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Three JILAns Win 2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Published: 04-01-2015
Source: JILA Scientific Communications

2015 NSF Graduate Fellows (l–r) Stephen Okoniewski, Jake Pettine, and Lindsay Sonderhouse

JILA graduate students Stephen Okoniewski (Perkins group), Jake Pettine (Nesbitt group), and Lindsay Sonderhouse (Ye group) have won coveted 2015 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, NSF announced March 31. The five-year Graduate Research Fellowships provide three years of support, with a per-year stipend of $34,000 and cost of education allowance of $12,000. Tuition and fees are waived during the term of NSF support.

“It’s a very prestigious fellowship to win,” said Sonderhouse. “It looks wonderful on our resumes, and it’s great for our advisors.”

During the five-year term of the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the Fellows are encouraged to take advantage of such programs as the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide program, which offers 3–12 months of international research collaborations. Fellows are also provided access to cyberinfrastructure resources, including supercomputing time.

The JILA students’ research plans were key ingredients in their successful Graduate Research Fellowship proposals, which were among the 2000 selected by NSF from ~16,000 applications to receive Graduate Research Fellowships.

Okoniewski proposes to use his fellowship in Life Sciences: Biophysics to investigate the overstretching transition of DNA, with the goal of generating force-activated substrates of single-stranded DNA. These substrates will allow him to study the mechanical properties of motor proteins that travel along single-stranded DNA. Okoniewski will use an ultrastable single-molecule optical trap to study multiple proteins as they rapidly travel along a piece of single-stranded DNA.

Pettine plans use his fellowship in Physics and Astronomy: Solid State to study how gold and silver nanoparticles of various sizes and shapes interact with light. He will investigate how laser light pushes electrons around inside nanoparticles on ultrafast time scales. This work may one day lead to a better understanding of solar energy harvesting and targeted cancer therapy as well as a deeper understanding of fundamental science. Pettine plans to work closely with academic and industrial collaborators in his studies of novel nanoparticles and nano-objects. His long-term goal is to build and maintain bridges between academia and industry via collaborative science.

Sonderhouse plans to use her fellowship in Physics and Astronomy: Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics to build the best optical atomic clock in the world. She intends to build a new laser with instability of one part in 1017 and use this laser in the Ye group’s strontium (Sr) lattice clock. With the new laser, the Sr-lattice clock would have an uncertainty of 10-19, surpassing the current world record by an order of magnitude. Sonderhouse’s goal is to become a research professor so she can mentor students while advancing the frontiers of science.

Additional NSF Graduate Fellows at JILA include 2014 Fellows Phoebe Tengdin (Anderson group) and David Couch (Kapteyn/Murnane group); 2013 Fellows Jennifer Ellis (Kapteyn/Murnane group), Christina Porter (Kapteyn/Murnane group), and Roman Chapurin (Jin group); 2012 Fellows Yomay Shyur (Lewandowski group), Adam Reed (Lehnert group), and Christoper Mancuso (Kapteyn/Murnane group); 2011 Fellow Dennis Gardner (Kapteyn/Murnane group); and 2010 Fellows Greg Salvesen (Begelman group) and Kathleen Hoogeboom-Pot (Kapteyn/Murnane group).