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NSF Fellowship Helps Miners Take Research to the Next Level


NSF Fellowship Helps Miners Take Research to the Next Level


NSF Fellowship Helps Miners Take Research to the Next Level

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Seven UTEP students and alumni can now count themselves among an elite group of student researchers from top universities around the nation who have received the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.

This year marks a record number of recipients for The University of Texas at El Paso. More than 13,000 students applied to the program, while only 2,000 fellowships were awarded.

The NSF program supports outstanding students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. Awardees receive a $34,000 annual stipend, and the university they are attending receives $12,000 to help cover tuition and fees.

In addition to the seven fellowship recipients, two current students received honorable mentions from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The designation also is considered a significant national academic achievement.

“This program recognizes the best of the best in the nation when it comes to potential for achievement in science,” said John Wiebe, Ph.D., UTEP associate provost. “We are incredibly proud of the UTEP students and alumni who have competed successfully for the award and those who earned honorable mention in the competition.”

During the past decade, UTEP has seen the number of recipients steadily grow. In 2003, the NSF awarded three UTEP alumni with the fellowship. In 2015, six Miners received the honor, while five UTEP affiliated student researchers were awarded the GRFP in 2016.

“The increasing number of awards to UTEP students and alumni reflect the research excellence and growing infrastructure of the institution, along with the efforts of engaged faculty and staff mentors,” Wiebe said. “The GRFP competition requires strong preparation, close mentorship, and access to cutting-edge undergraduate and graduate research opportunities. These results show us that UTEP students are well prepared to compete successfully at the highest levels.”

Learn more about the 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellows:

Mayela Renata Aldaz Cervantes

Mayela Renata Aldaz Cervantes

Current Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara

Mayela Renata Aldaz Cervantes is grateful for the undergraduate experience and resources available to her at UTEP that she credits with making her a better scientist. She graduated from the University as a Top 10 Senior in 2015 with a B.S. in metallurgical and materials engineering. Today, Cervantes is pursuing her doctorate in materials at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she is studying the fundamentals of titanium oxidation. Her research involves developing a better understanding of the interactions between oxygen and titanium to find out the effects on the oxidation behavior of titanium alloys when other alloying elements such as aluminum are added. The research is relevant for applications in turbine engines, biomedical implants and other structural materials that are exposed to high-temperature environments.

"My experience in graduate school so far has been incredibly challenging,” Cervantes said. “Receiving this scholarship is both an honor and motivation to keep going on this path. I hope it also serves as an inspiration to my community and other aspiring scientists.”

Beu Primavera Oropeza

Beu Primavera Oropeza

Current Institution: UTEP

Beu Primavera Oropeza wants to help make the world a better place. She hopes to one day attend medical school and work on personalized regenerative medicine as well as teach in underserved communities. She is 2015 UTEP graduate who earned a B.S. in cellular and molecular biochemistry. Oropeza is working on a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at UTEP. Her research under the direction of Thomas Boland, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering, deals with tissue printing of various sized vascularization. The ink-jet cell printer in UTEP’s Biomedical Device, Delivery and Diagnostic Lab (B3D) allows researchers to print cells and tissues into various structures. Using a similar process, they can print vascularization that will integrate with the native vessels in the body. The ability to print a working vascular network will enable the creation of larger structures without the issue of nutrient flow. Oropeza hopes to use the knowledge gained from creating the vascular network to then print a human aorta that could be used in a clinical setting.

“I hope that throughout the course of my fellowship years I will be able to network with others to not only advance my research but also potentially make lasting connections between UTEP and other universities around the country and internationally,” Oropeza said.

2017 NSF GRFP Honorable Mention Recipients:

Oswaldo Raudel Avila

Oswaldo Raudel Avila

Current Institution: UTEP

Oswaldo Raudel Avila is a UTEP senior who expects to receive a B.S. in mechanical engineering in May 2017. As a UTEP student, he has worked on three different research projects: hybrid fiber composites for cryogenic applications, the study of helical structures for stretchable electronics, and polymeric foam response using Hyper-foam Constitutive Law. Avila’s involvement with the projects is mostly computational, using Finite Element Analysis to evaluate and predict the response of the material and the structures. He has been accepted into Northwestern University’s highly competitive Ph.D. program in mechanical engineering, where he will be working with top faculty and leaders in the field of stretchable electronics to develop new stretchable electronics and understand the interaction between mechanics and bio-integrated devices used in human health monitoring.

“I am truly humbled and honored to receive the Honorable Mention as an undergraduate for my work in mechanics,” Avila said. “This highly competitive recognition is not only my work but the work of my mentors and the institutions that I have associated with and puts UTEP in the position to compete against any other institution regarding academic excellence and achievements.”

For the full listing of the NSF Fellowship recipients refer to the University Communications article.


The University of Texas at El Paso
College of Engineering
Engineering Building Room A148
500 W University Ave
El Paso, TX 79968

Phone: (915) 747-6444
Fax: (915) 747-5437

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