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Three Fords Earn National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

Jacob Olshansky (left) and Samuel Blau (both '12) are the two current Haverford students who earned NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. Brian Pepe-Mooney '10 is also a recipient.
Jacob Olshansky (left) and Samuel Blau (both '12) are the two current Haverford students who earned NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. Brian Pepe-Mooney '10 is also a recipient.

Chemistry majors Samuel Blau ’12, Jacob Olshansky ’12 and Brian Pepe-Mooney ’10 were selected for this award, which funds three years of graduate work.

Two current seniors, Samuel Blau and Jacob Olshansky, and one alumnus, Brian Pepe-Mooney ’10, were recently honored with National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) awards. These fellowships offer three years of support from the NSF for science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduate students. The award includes a $30,000 annual stipend, a $10,500 cost-of-education allowance, and international research and professional development opportunities.

Chemistry and physics double-major Olshansky will use his fellowship to fund his doctoral work in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, where he hopes to work in the field of physical and materials chemistry with an eye towards renewable energy applications.

“Haverford's chemistry department has had a large influence on my career goals,” says Olshansky. “Work in [Associate Professor of Chemistry] Alex Norquist’s materials chemistry lab sparked my interest in understanding how the atomic structure of materials gives rise to bulk properties, and how these properties can be harnessed for technological applications. And Haverford's conscientious atmosphere has made me aware of the importance of helping others, something I think I can do by developing alternative energy solutions.”

Blau, who is also chemistry major, is declining his NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in favor of the Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (DOE CSGF) that he was also recently awarded. The DOE CSGF provides a $36,000 yearly stipend, payment of all tuition and fees, academic allowances and a 12-week research practicum, all of which is renewable for up to four years. Blau will use this award to fund his doctoral work in chemical physics at Harvard University. He will, starting in mid-August, be working with Associate Professor Alán Aspuru-Guzik doing theoretical physical chemistry research on open quantum systems, quantum dynamics and quantum computing.

“Haverford has allowed me to discover my passion for theoretical quantum chemistry, which is really an intersection between chemistry, physics and computer science,” says Blau. “ I feel incredibly lucky to have found something that I can do for the rest of my life, hopefully, that is so fun and fulfilling, and that’s all because of Haverford.”

Pepe-Mooney, who is currently earning his Ph.D. in the Biological and Biomedical Science Program at Harvard University, will use his NSF fellowship to support his ongoing graduate work and to pursue research that matches his interest in biomaterials and regenerative medicine. Pepe-Mooney credits his Haverford professors, specifically Professor of Biology Robert Fairman and Associate Professor of Chemistry Fran Blaise (both of whom recommended him for this fellowship program), with helping him grow not only as a scientist, but also as a person.

“Pursuing scientific research is much more than sitting alone at a bench top,” he says. “The process of research science is one full of collaboration and communication. Haverford’s liberal arts curriculum and focus on academic development and social responsibility have shaped not only my ability to pursue science, but also my awareness of the influence that I may have on those around me.”

Read about more Fords who have won fellowships, scholarships or grants.

--Rebecca Raber

Originally posted at: http://www.haverford.edu/news/stories/59951/161