National Science Foundation awards alumni for excellence

The National Science Foundation awarded fellowships to eight SF State alumni, making SF State the California State University with the most students to receive fellowships this year.

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program received over 13,000 applications and narrowed it down to 2,000 recipients, according to the program’s website.

The award recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines by providing recipients with an annual $34,000 stipend for three years and tuition support for graduate school.

San Diego State University and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo tied for the CSUs with the second-most recipients — six of their current or former students receiving fellowships.

For alumna Lindsey Lavaysse, who graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in psychology, this stipend will replace what she would earn as a teacher.

“This is a great situation for me as teaching is not my career goal and I can now focus on my research more,” Lavaysse said. “It will be the funding that I use to afford everyday life as it will replace my current income source.”

Lavaysse, who recently completed her Master of Science degree from Washington State University in Vancouver, will focus her research on threats to occupational health and safety among vulnerable populations such as pregnant, minority, intersectional and contingent workers.

Lavaysse is also interested in outcomes of economic stress such as job insecurity, as well as how stereotypes and prejudice jeopardize workers’ health and safety.

“The fellowship is (going to) enable me to continue to do great science in the Mitochondria Phospholipid Research Center, in The Claypool Laboratory,” said Pingdewinde Sam, another SF State alumnus and fellowship recipient. “It also opens other opportunities in the scientific community.”

Sam, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in biology, is the founder of Teebo, a humanitarian organization that provides aid to Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa where he lived until he was 19. In addition to researching in the field of science, Sam intends to continue his work with Teebo.

The fellowship provides several opportunities for recipients. Madeline Cassani graduated from SF State in 2013 with a degree in biology and plans to take advantage of resources available as an NSF Fellow, such as the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide program or the Graduate Research Internship Program, in order to expand and learn from scientists outside of Johns Hopkins, where she attends graduate school.

“Becoming a recipient of the NSF GRFP will give me the freedom to continue exploring the frontiers of biological sciences, and also help me to share my knowledge and collaborate with my peers,” Cassani said.

Cassani credits the de la Torre Laboratory at SF State as the catalyst for her passion for science and what ultimately led to her career.

Another recipient, Elias Lazarus, also credits his time at SF State as being fundamental to his career.

“Dr. Phillip King in the Economics department was fantastically supportive during my time at SFSU and ongoing,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus, who graduated SF State in 2011 with a degree in economics, worked for Global Footprint Network, an international non-profit that measures the use of renewable resources.

Four other SF State alumni received this fellowship: Robin Dee Lopez, Bushra Mariam Bibi, Brett Ian Hendrickson and Noureddine Chtaini. Andres Rodolfo is the only fellowship recipient who is also a current graduate student.

“I am grateful to my current and previous mentors who continue to empower me,” Sam said. “Many faculty and friends at San Francisco State University have been an incredible support and never cease to encourage me when needed.”

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