Four UConn Students Selected as National Science Foundation Fellows

From left, Emily Funk '13 (CLAS), Anna Green '13 (CLAS), Jennifer Bento, a Ph.D. candidate in the Polymer Program, and Tyler Reese '13 (CLAS), in the Wilbur Cross Building. (Ariel Dowski '14 (CLAS)/UConn Photo)

From left, Emily Funk ’13 (CLAS), Anna Green ’13 (CLAS), Jennifer Bento, a Ph.D. candidate in the Polymer Program, and Tyler Reese ’13 (CLAS), in the Wilbur Cross Building. (Ariel Dowski ’14 (CLAS)/UConn Photo)

Four UConn students have been awarded 2013 Graduate Research Fellowships by the National Science Foundation. The fellowships support graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. About 2,000 awards were given nationwide in 2013.

Three of the students receiving fellowships are currently undergraduates: Emily Funk (CLAS ’13), Anna Green (CLAS ’13), and Tyler Reese (CLAS ’13). Second-year graduate student Jennifer Bento of the Institute of Materials Science was also honored.

Jennifer Bento’s graduate work involves research in the Polymer Program with associate professor Douglas Adamson. Her proposed research integrates polymer chemistry and engineering to develop a novel type of membrane that will remove salt from saltwater, in a process called desalination. These methods could help to address growing clean water needs around the world.

She says she hopes the fellowship will help her stand out when applying for positions after graduate school: “I hope it will set me apart from other graduate students who will be applying for post-docs and jobs. Dealing with courses, research, and writing for a fellowship all at the same time was a lot, but it was definitely worth it.”

Emily Funk, an Honors student of associate professor Eric Schultz in ecology and evolutionary biology, will begin graduate school at Cornell University in the fall, where she will study aquatic biology and the evolution of adaptation in fish.

Working in evolutionary biology, she’s most excited about the potential to travel for her research. “The field work is my favorite part,” she says.

Funk says she’s looking forward to taking what she’s learned in her undergraduate courses and translating them into graduate research. “I’m excited to start to focus on my research more,” she says. “I’ll be taking what I learned in class and applying it to actual research.”

Honors student and University Scholar Anna Green has worked with molecular and cell biology professor Peter Gogarten on genetic evolution in bacteria and was a 2012 winner of the national Goldwater Scholarship. She will begin graduate school at Harvard University in the fall, studying systems biology.

“It’s an integrative approach to biology – it incorporates math, physics, and computer science,” she says. “I’m very excited for it. I’ll try to keep my evolutionary focus and use some new methods.”

Honors student Tyler Reese is a math major, music minor, and University Scholar who has worked with assistant professor Luke Rogers in mathematics. During his time at UConn he has played in the UConn Marching Band, Jazz Ensemble, and Pep Band. He is interested in pursuing graduate work in applied and interdisciplinary mathematics.

“I like to describe it as ‘anything but just math,’” he says. “It’s anyplace math has applications – anywhere math can find a home that isn’t just math.”

Reese will likely attend the University of Michigan for graduate school in the fall. He’s excited about the broad array of research opportunities there and hopes his studies may continue to involve his love of music.

Three UConn students were also recognized with honorable mentions for the graduate fellowships: Christopher Brozdowski ’14 (CLAS), a psychology major; Michael Hutson, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology; and Joseph Mummert, a graduate student in mechanical engineering.