Inside Rensselaer
Two Graduate Students Earn Distinguished Fellowships
Two Rensselaer graduate students — David Sondak and Tegan Webster — have earned highly competitive federal government fellowships designed to encourage the nation’s most promising future scientists and engineers.

Sondak is among the first 150 students to receive a Department of Energy fellowship under a new program to strengthen the scientific workforce by supporting students during the formative years of their research. A doctoral student in aerospace engineering, Sondak is conducting research in fluid mechanics and turbulence modeling.

Webster is one of 200 students to be awarded a 2010 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) fellowship. She came to Rensselaer as an undergraduate, earned her bachelor’s degree in the accelerated B.S./Ph.D. program, and is pursuing a doctorate in mathematics. Her research focuses on radar imaging.

“These are very prestigious, competitive fellowship programs. Having two of our students selected is yet another indication of the caliber of student we tend to attract,” said Stanley Dunn, vice provost and dean of graduate education.

He pointed to Rensselaer’s track record this year — including fellowships from the National Science Foundation; Department of Defense Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) program; ThinkSwiss Research Scholarship program; and others — as evidence of the university’s heightened stature. Dunn also acknowledged the role of Rensselaer faculty in the students’ success.

“The faculty who mentor these students are the best of the best,” he said. “There’s no way we’d have so many students winning fellowships without this faculty support.”

Sondak’s research involves developing models for magnetohydrodynamic turbulence, studying the physics of an electrically conducting fluid in the presence of a magnetic field. One of his goals is to apply his research to nuclear fusion and its promise as a clean, alternative source of energy.

Webster has conducted research into radar imaging at Rensselaer and at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. She is interested in areas including using radar to analyze terrain, for missile detection and defense, and for flight path planning of unmanned aerial vehicles carrying radar systems.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 14, September 24, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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