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Seniors receive competitive postgraduate scholarships, fellowships

| Friday, May 19, 2023

Thirty-two seniors have been awarded a variety of fellowships and scholarships to participate in postgraduate programs. Awardees include a Churchill Scholar, six National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research fellowships, two Boren scholarships, a Luce scholarship and 17 Fulbright recipients. 

In years past, graduating seniors have received other prestigious awards, including past Boren scholarships, two critical language scholarships, a finalist position for the Truman scholarship, two Goldwater scholarships and 17 Gilman scholarships.

Of the Fulbright recipients, two received a study or research grant, and the other 15 will be teaching English through an assistantship program if they accept the award. Five other seniors were chosen as alternates for the Fulbright.

Two seniors, Julia McKenna and Blake Ziegler, were finalists for the competitive Marshall scholarship.

Audrey Miles, a graduating senior who majored in chemistry with a concentration in computing and a supplementary major in theology, was selected as one of 16 Churchill scholars. The Churchill scholarship covers one year of masters study in science, mathematics, engineering or science policy at the University of Cambridge.

Miles will be studying nuclear energy at Cambridge, before beginning a Ph.D. program at UC Irvine in the fall of 2024. She became interested in nuclear energy because of her work in Amy Hixon’s lab. Hixon is a professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences, but her lab focuses on the behavior of actinide, a group of 15 radioactive elements, in natural and engineered systems.

“I think it’ll be a really stimulating intellectual experience, but I’m also really excited to meet all of the people there. The Churchill cohort is insane,” Miles said.

Miles did not always plan to apply for a fellowship to fund her graduate studies, but she found out about the scholarship through the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE). 

“I applied for and eventually won the Goldwater Scholarship when I was a junior, so I really benefited from those kinds of conversations with CUSE,” Miles said. “That whole application process was really valuable in discerning more specifically what I wanted to do for my Ph.D.”

Miles worked with Emily Hunt, the national fellowships senior program manager, during the application process for the Goldwater and Churchill scholarships.

“She was really helpful in … coaching me through how to approach [essays and interviews], and they also provide a lot of resources from previous applicants,” Miles said.

Miles explained that CUSE has a point person for different fields, and you begin your application by submitting materials to CUSE.

“If anyone is interested in pursuing graduate school or any other kind of opportunity like that, it is so worthwhile to talk to CUSE about it. Regardless of if you feel confident in your qualifications … they are so supportive,” Miles said.

Austin Wyman, a psychology major, is one of the six NSF fellowship recipients from the class of 2023. Wyman will be returning to Notre Dame in the fall to pursue a doctoral degree in quantitative psychology.

The NSF graduate research fellowship is a five-year program that provides three years of financial support. According to their website, the purpose of the fellowship is “to ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States.” In addition to writing a personal statement, applicants propose a research topic as an example of the type of work they would do in graduate school. 

For his NSF application, Wyman proposed the development of a tool that would assess incoming police officers and predict their capacity for committing misconduct. He plans to focus on this project for at least the first two years of his Ph.D.

“This was one application of psychopathology that I thought would be really, really important, especially with how prevalent police misconduct has been in the news over the past three years,” Wyman said. “I was really affected by the Black Lives Matter protests and everything that was happening with campus conversations … I think it really boils down to the type of people we’re allowing to become police officers.”

Wyman wrote his research proposal during the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP), hosted on campus by the University’s graduate school. Each week of that nine-week program, he met with the grants and fellowships office to discuss his application.

“I probably wrote maybe seven or eight drafts over the course of like four months and went to them over and over and over again until we refined it to a point that I could submit,” Wyman said.

Wyman said he applied to the NSF fellowship because he was inspired by a graduate student in his lab. Fellowships that cover costs also boost your competitiveness when applying to graduate school, Wyman added.

“I can get a job now if I want to, but it’s really hard to get a research-related job immediately after undergrad because there’s just so much more you need to learn about research that can only be taught at the graduate level,” Wyman said. “I do feel that … I would get the most fulfillment from a job that allows me to research what I’m interested in and gives me the flexibility to take my ideas wherever they want to go.”

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