The National Science Foundation selected three engineering and biological sciences students from Boise State University for the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship Program in 2022.
These Bronco recipients represent a broad variety of research interests ranging from engineering education and flexible hybrid electronics to the impacts humans have on the natural world. These three fellows represent the College of Engineering’s Department of Civil Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The foundation’s fellowship program is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind in supporting the vitality of science and engineering in the United States and reinforcing its diversity. According to the organization, the program’s prestigious award encourages recipients in becoming life-long leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching.
“I am excited to see three Boise State STEM students were selected by the National Science Foundation for their prestigious 2022 Graduate Fellowship program,” said John Buckwalter, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This is a testament to these talented graduate students as well as their mentors. We are excited to see what the future holds as they progress in their careers.”
Leticia Camacho, a master’s student in biological sciences, will use her fellowship to further support her current research looking at optimizing survey protocols for estimating the abundance and distribution of the small mammal family of Leporids, including black-tailed jackrabbits in the Sagebrush Steppe.
Camacho’s research is supported by the Quantitative Conservation Lab, her mentor Jen Cruz, assistant professor in population ecology, and by the National Science Foundation’s Genes by Environment research program to understand how genetic diversity and plasticity shape population response and adaptive capacity in response to environmental change in integral ecosystems in the American West.
“I aspire to be a proud Latina scientist that fosters diversity inclusion in STEM career paths, but I also want to actively promote inclusion of other underrepresented groups,” Camacho said. “Although my path has been studded with constraints, the lessons that I have learned, the unending love and support from my mom, and my research experiences, have shaped me into a diligent, passionate, and capable ecologist.”
Camacho is currently a first year graduate student. Camacho’s career interest is to understand how the anthropogenic impacts that humans impose on the natural world influences the stability and resiliency of ecosystems. Her career goal is to contribute to wildlife conservation, by understanding how species become resilient, and survive adversity.
Senior civil engineering student Ulises Trujillo Garcia’s fellowship-supported research project focuses on discovering the impacts of exposure to personal narratives in the classroom. The goal is to ascertain if personal stories in the classroom can help underrepresented students in engineering fields develop a greater sense of belonging and identity as an engineer. Research highlights a positive connection with students’ sense of belonging to an engineering community that is shown to improve retention, academic success, and other important outcomes.
Garcia’s research comes from firsthand experiences as a first-generation, low-income, Latino engineering student building an inspiration to help other underrepresented students have successful, connected engineering journeys.
“My background from a migrant farm-working family has given me a passion for helping and supporting underrepresented students in engineering,” Garcia said. “This will equip me to work on my lifelong commitment to improving underrepresented students’ graduation and retention rates by focusing on mechanisms to transform representation in engineering, which will directly impact the educational outcomes of the most vulnerable students in the country.”
Garcia will graduate from Boise State with a bachelor’s of science in civil engineering this spring. He will be attending Arizona State University to join the doctoral program in Engineering Education Systems after receiving four full-ride offers.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
In the Fiber-optics, Lasers, and Integrated-photonics Research (FLAIR) Laboratory, senior Ellie Schlake and her mentor, Nirmala Kandadai, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, are working with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to integrate fully flexible hybrid electronic nanomaterial devices manufactured in space.
Schlake’s proposed project collaborates with the Advanced Nanomaterials and Manufacturing Laboratory and Idaho Microfabrication Laboratory to explore a new optical sintering technique for printed thermoelectric nanomaterials used in thermoelectric energy harvesting and power generating devices used in space.
“I have been one of the only girls in my engineering classes, but ever since I took an electrical engineering course I knew it was my passion,” Schlake said. “The discipline is challenging, broad, but most importantly, it is innovative. I do not want to merely experience the future of technology; I want to take part in creating it.”
Schlake is a part of the Accelerated Masters Program in the College of Engineering, giving her a head start in her graduate studies which she will begin this fall continuing her education in the department of electrical and computer engineering at Boise State.
-By Jamie Fink