An engineering student who is graduating from West Virginia University in May is heading to the mountains of Colorado to pursue her dreams.

Thanks to a prestigious research fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF), those dreams just came a little closer to reality.

Tirzah Mills, a chemical engineering major from Morgantown, has received the NSF s Graduate Research Fellowship, worth more than $120,000.

Mills will use the fellowship to pursue a doctorate in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, starting this fall.

I am so thankful to all of my professors and to my friends and family who helped and encouraged me throughout the application process,said Mills.I couldnt have reached this point without the support of the people around me.

The purpose of fellowships is to preserve the vitality of the human resource base of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the United States and to reinforce its diversity.

The award will provide Mills with $40,500 per year for three years. This includes $30,000 per year as a stipend and $10,500 for tuition and fees. A one-time international research travel allowance provides for research outside of the United States. Mills hopes to use that allowance to travel to Australia.

By providing full funding, this award will provide me the flexibility to tailor my doctoral project,Mills said.I can pursue a project that is a little more unconventional and risky than others because the funding is already provided.

It is very encouraging to know that the NSF trusts me enough to determine what my research project should be.

Tirzah has been an outstanding student in the classroom, in her undergraduate research and in all of her extra-curricular work,said Dady Dadyburjor, chair of WVU s Department of Chemical Engineering.I am pleased, but not surprised that she received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. We will be hearing great things from her in the future.

Mills was awarded the fellowship on the basis of her Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, WVU grades, three letters of recommendation and three essays.

As a WVU student, Mills has been very involved with several student organizations, including the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Omega Chi Epsilon and Kappa Phi.

As the former president of SWE , Mills led many outreach activities, including Girl Scout Day and Eighth Grade Day, both events designed to get young people interested in engineering.

Millseventual goal is to become a university professor. She is also particularly interested in inspiring other young women to consider engineering as a career and possibly serving as an advisor to a SWE chapter.

Many girls are turned off to science, engineering and math from an early age,said Mills.They may find it boring or difficult, or they don’t see the value of it.

I would hope that serving as a SWE advisor would help females majoring in engineering find the support they need to stick with it.

In addition, I want to help organize outreach events for girls still in elementary or high school, to help pique their interest in engineering.

Mills is the only WVU student to receive one of the 910 Graduate Research Fellowships awarded by NSF this year.

It’s a great honor to represent WVU this year by winning this award,she said.WVU has prepared me to take this next step into the national and international scientific communities.