Inside Rensselaer
Three Students Earn NSF Fellowships
Three Rensselaer students — Kevin Del Bene, Heather Palmeri, and Evan Patton — have been named 2010 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellows. Another six Rensselaer students have earned honorable mentions.

One of the nation’s most prestigious fellowship programs, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) supports outstanding individuals who are in the early stages of graduate studies in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).

“These are the gold standard, the fellowships by which everything else is measured,” said Stanley Dunn, vice provost and dean of graduate education. “If you are selected, you are the best of the best.

“These are the gold standard, the fellowships by which everything else is measured... The fact that Rensselaer has three fellowship recipients and six honorable mentions speaks well of the quality of graduate students we attract, of the university itself, and of the faculty who have guided these students to prepare competitive applications.” — Stanley Dunn

“The fact that Rensselaer has three fellowship recipients and six honorable mentions this year speaks well of the quality of graduate students we attract, of the university itself, and of the faculty who have guided these students to prepare competitive applications.”

All three winners are in Rensselaer’s accelerated B.S./Ph.D. program. Del Bene is in his final year as an undergraduate, majoring in mathematics. Palmeri is a doctoral student in mathematics, and Patton is a doctoral student in computer science. As NSF fellows, Del Bene, Palmeri, and Patton receive three years of graduate support: an annual stipend of $30,000, a $10,500 annual cost-of-education allowance, plus a one-time $1,000 international travel allowance.

The following students earned honorable mention, which NSF describes as “a significant academic achievement”: Eric Dzienkowski, undergraduate, physics; Robert Hesse, undergraduate, biomedical engineering; Melissa Holstein, graduate student, chemical engineering; Jacob Martin, graduate student, chemical engineering; David Sondak, graduate student, aeronautical engineering; and Erin Turk, undergraduate, biology.

Del Bene’s research involves using mathematical modeling to study and help predict the behavior of wildfires under different atmospheric conditions. That information could lead to improved firefighting strategies and early-warning systems, two developments that could save millions in property losses and cleanup costs. Most important to Del Bene, who has been a volunteer firefighter since age 16, is the potential to save lives.

Palmeri seeks to improve the ability to interpret raw data that’s obtained via radar. She plans to develop a method to identify and decipher data on specific geographic features — such as cavities, corners, and edges — that currently are easy to overlook. Her research has potential applications in fields as diverse as astronomy, archaeology, sonar, and ultrasound. For example, her methodology could be used to better identify satellites in space, to discover buried artifacts, or to assist with undersea exploration.

Patton’s research focuses on developing compact, efficient reasoning tools that can enhance the performance and capabilities of smaller, mobile devices. His goal is to build reasoners that provide answers quickly, use available memory more efficiently, minimize processing power, and maximize battery life. Patton also plans to test whether Semantic Web technologies improve the ability of individuals to solve complex computing problems using dynamic mobile networks.

Since 1952, the NSF GRFP program has received more than 500,000 applications and selected 42,000 fellows. More than 20 of them have gone on to become Nobel laureates.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 9, May 14, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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