Purdue News

April 28, 2005

Purdue engineering attracts award-winning graduate students

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Prestigious national fellowships awarded to 15 incoming graduate students show Purdue's College of Engineering to be among the nation's best.

Purdue graduate students have received 12 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships and five National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships, with two students receiving both fellowships.

"These fellowships are two of the most prestigious in the nation, and receiving this many in a single year is a strong indication of how Purdue is increasing its recognition and reputation at the national level," said Linda Katehi, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering for the Purdue College of Engineering. "These applicants are some of the best in the nation, and that they elected to come to Purdue for their graduate studies speaks volumes about the research opportunities that Purdue offers."

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees. The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship recognizes individuals who have demonstrated ability and special aptitude for advanced training in science and engineering.

With five National Science Foundation, or NSF, honorees, Purdue's School of Mechanical Engineering received more than any other mechanical engineering program in the nation. Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the University of California, Berkeley came in next with four honorees each in this category. With four awards, Purdue's mechanical engineering also came in first nationally with the number of honorees from the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships. Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Texas at Austin mechanical engineering schools came in next with two each.

"There were only 16 National Defense Science fellowships in mechanical engineering given this year and Purdue received one-fourth of those – that says a great deal about our program and our students," said E. Daniel Hirleman, the William E. and Florence E. Perry Professor and head of the School of Mechanical Engineering and a 1972 NSF graduate fellowship honoree. "This helps our strategic mission because it demonstrates our ability to recruit the most talented graduate students in the nation and enables us to prepare these students for careers as university, government and industry leaders."

Hirleman attributes the success of receiving so many national graduate fellowships to a combination of top students, faculty and the leadership of Anil Bajaj, associate head for graduate education in mechanical engineering, and his staff.

"Susan Fisher, graduate administrator for mechanical engineering, and the whole staff were very proactive in encouraging students to apply for these fellowships," Hirleman said. "They also arranged for Jim Jones, a professor of mechanical engineering, to offer a workshop for students to help them develop competitive applications."

Three NSF honorees will attend Purdue's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; one NSF and one national defense honoree will attend Purdue's School of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. Purdue's schools of chemical, biomedical, industrial and civil engineering each have one new NSF honoree either at Purdue now or committed to attend Purdue in the fall. Purdue's Department of Forestry and Natural Resources received one NSF honoree.

The NSF and national defense fellows receive the cost of tuition and fees, and annual stipends of about $30,000 each to attend their chosen institutions.

"These prestigious awards are a testimony to the outstanding talent of our students and a positive reflection on our engineering program," said Mark Smith, the Michael J. and Katherine R. Birck Professor and head of the Purdue School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "Every such award we receive frees up departmental resources to recruit and fund another outstanding student from across the country. We currently have two NSF fellowships, and with the additional three from this year's awards, we will more than double our current number."

Purdue's two graduate students receiving both the NSF and the national defense fellowships are Rebecca Owston, from Big Sandy, Tenn., and Mary Schuff, from Sparta, Tenn., both mechanical engineering graduate students.

"I did my undergraduate work at the University of Tennessee and came to Purdue for my master's because of Purdue's outstanding reputation in research and because my husband is doing his residency in pathology in the School of Veterinary Science," said Owston, whose research is in combustion and computational modeling. "I plan to stay here to receive my Ph.D. and then do research in the private sector."

Schuff earned her undergraduate degree from Tennessee Tech University.

"I was very happy to receive these fellowships because they allow me to concentrate on my research," Schuff said. "I came to Purdue because it is one of the top engineering institutions in the nation, and I was interested in the research the professors were doing in heat transfer, which is the field I am studying."

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, (765) 494-4192, csequin@purdue.edu

Sources: Linda Katehi, (765) 494-5346, katehi@purdue.edu

E. Daniel Hirleman, (765) 494-5688, hirleman@purdue.edu

Mark Smith, (765) 494-3539, mjts@purdue.edu

Mary Schuff, (765) 496-2792

Rebecca Owston, (765) 494-1524, roweston@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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