Six students from West Virginia University—all in the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources—have received prestigious fellowships from the National Science Foundation to pursue research in graduate school.

Emily Calandrelli of Morgantown; David Dittenber, of Columbus, Ohio; Greg Gay, of Morgantown; Jennifer Knipe, of Martinsburg; Nick Morris of Morgantown; and Allison Willingham of Keyser will each receive $30,000 per year for a maximum of three years of graduate study and research, plus a travel stipend for study abroad.

The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program is aimed at helping ensure the vitality of science and engineering in the United States, as well as reinforcing its diversity. The program supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in the U.S. and abroad. This year, NSF increased the number of Graduate Research Fellowships it awarded nationally to 2,000, in part with thanks to funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“It is gratifying to have this outstanding group of students from our College receive this recognition and support of their academic and research activities,” said Gene Cilento, dean of the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. “We fully expect to hear great things from each and every one of them in the future.”

Calandrelli will graduate from WVU in May with bachelor’s degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering. For her graduate study, she will head to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she has been accepted to work in the Space System Architecture Laboratory. Calandrelli also received a Department of Defense fellowship which will provide for another two years of graduate study in addition to those funded through NSF. In the future, she hopes for work for NASA.

Dittenber earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from LeTourneau University in Texas and then came to WVU, where he completed a master’s degree in civil engineering. For his PhD studies, he is planning to stay at WVU and to work under Professor Hota GangaRao in civil and environmental engineering. Hs research area is in area of composite structures, particularly natural fiber/resin composites. In the long term, he hopes to become a university professor.

Gay earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science at WVU and is planning to use the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to support his pursuit of a PhD, also in computer science, at the University of Minnesota. His research focus is search-based software engineering, and he also is aiming for a career in teaching and research at the university level.
Knipe earned her bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering at WVU and will attend the University of Texas at Austin for her doctoral studies. She has worked at the U.S.
Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory as a project management intern since 2009. Knipe is aiming for a career in research, possibly in academia, possibly in industry.

Morris has already completed three semesters of the PhD program in mechanical and aerospace engineering at WVU and plans to continue in that pursuit. His research involves the development of thin films for use in dust mitigation systems and drag reduction systems on aircraft surfaces. Morris is hoping to eventually obtain a faculty position at a top research university.

While earning her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at WVU, Willingham has completed two internships and designed systems for unmanned space missions. She hasn’t made a final decision on where she will attend graduate school, but in the long run, she is hoping to one day work for NASA as a systems engineer or project manager.

In a sentiment echoed by the other recipients, Knipe said that she is grateful for the support that the NSF Graduate Research Fellowships provide. “It is important for other students to know that this kind of support is available. The key is to know what your goals are and to be willing to work hard to achieve them,” she concluded.



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Susan Case
Director of College Relations
College of Engineering & Mineral Resources
Phone: (304) 293-4086