U-M students triumph in national STEM scholarship competitions

University of Michigan students continue to shine in national scholarship and fellowship award competitions, and this academic year was an especially impressive one for undergraduates who plan to pursue research careers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Record number of Goldwater recipients

U-M has had at least one student win the Goldwater Scholarship every year since 1991, and in recent years as many as four students have won in a single award cycle. In 2022, U-M had five Goldwater Scholars: Nick Cemalovic (pharmacy), Faye Jackson (mathematics), Daniel Liu (chemistry and computer science), Jonah Nan (mathematics) and Anna Simpson (physics, astronomy and astrophysics).

The Goldwater Scholarship was established by Congress in 1986 and is considered the premier national award for undergraduates who plan to pursue STEM research careers. U-M was one of only two universities to have five Goldwater Scholars this year.

The 2022 Scholars helped move U-M into sixth place for all-time Goldwater Scholars. Since 2014, U-M has had more Goldwater Scholars than any university other than Stanford.

Churchill funds year at Cambridge

Biology, health and society major Karthik Ravi was a Goldwater Scholar in 2021. Now, he is just one of 15 U.S. students to win a Churchill Scholarship.

He will pursue a Master of Philosophy by research in medical sciences at Cambridge before returning to the U.S. for medical school.

“My specific project will be about exploring the feasibility of using urine and plasma as a reservoir for tumor DNA from high-grade brain tumors,” he said.

The Churchill Scholarship funds one year of STEM graduate research or study at the University of Cambridge. This is U-M’s second year in a row with a Churchill Scholar.

Mathematics graduate and 2021 Goldwater Scholar Jack Haviland was an alternate for the Churchill Scholarship.

U-M’s latest Astronaut Scholar

Physics and astronomy senior Anna Simpson won the Astronaut Scholarship. Simpson has been working with David Gerdes, Arthur F, Thurnau Professor and professor of physics and astronomy, on research related to trans-Neptunian objects since 2019. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astronomy and planetary science with a research focus on the Solar System or exoplanets.

Created in 1984 for the six surviving Mercury 7 astronauts, the Astronaut Scholarship awards up to $15,000 to the winning student, along with an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the Innovators Gala and an opportunity to present their research.

Winners also receive membership in the Astronaut Scholar Honor Society where they can receive mentoring from other scholars, research industry professionals and NASA astronauts.

U-M Stem Research Career Award

Aerospace engineering junior Jose Luiz Vargas de Mendonca has won the U-M Stem Research Career Award. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and take a leading role in international space cooperation.

U-M STEM RCA supports accomplished sophomores and juniors who plan to pursue a Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. and research career in a STEM field.

The award provides an inclusive option for U-M’s international students, as many national scholarships are limited to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. For example, this year’s winner is from Brazil.

Graduate students win NSF-GRFP awards

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program supports phenomenal graduate students pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in NSF-supported STEM disciplines.

The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost-of-education allowance of $12,000 to the institution.

This year, 44 U-M graduating seniors and current graduate students have won fellowships in a wide variety of STEM fields. The College of Engineering students had a particularly strong showing this cycle, with 21 of the 44 winners pursuing degrees in engineering fields.

U-M consistently ranks among the top 10 universities for NSF-GRFs received each year.

The Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships runs the nomination process for many of these scholarships, and advises undergraduates as they pursue competitive awards. Recent highlights along with many STEM research awards include the second year in a row U-M students were named Rhodes or Truman scholars.

“U-M’s support for undergraduate research is second to none. Each year hundreds of undergraduates are meaningfully engaged in research projects on our campus,” said ONSF Director Henry Dyson.

“Even for students who don’t win these highly competitive awards, the application process for the above awards is a beneficial process preparing them for graduate admissions. In the last eight years, nearly 100 applicants for these awards have gone on to Ph.D. and M.D.-Ph.D. programs at leading universities.”