Students walk in front of Gottwald

NSF grants create new opportunities for cutting-edge research

June 2, 2023

University News

Justin Airas, a 2020 graduate, says his professors, especially his first mentor, chemistry professor Carol Parish, sparked his love for research.

“She believed in me long before I did,” said Airas, who is currently at MIT working on a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry. He is one of six recent graduates to receive competitive National Science Foundation Graduate Research fellowships.

“To have one student receive this award is wonderful,” said Parish, associate provost for academic integration and Floyd D. and Elisabeth S. Gottwald Professor of Chemistry. “To have six in one year is remarkable, and it’s a wonderful testament to the amazing research experiences and foundations that our faculty provide to our students while they are undergraduates.”

The five-year fellowship provides three years of financial support, including an annual stipend of $37,000, to support outstanding graduate students who have demonstrated the potential to be high-achieving scientists and engineers.

“I’ve dedicated my entire academic career to research, so I am deeply honored to have been selected for such a prestigious fellowship,” Arias said. “This award will help me to pursue my dream of becoming a professor and paying forward all that my undergraduate and graduate professors have taught me.”

Joann Chongsaritsinsuk, a 2021 graduate, is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical biology at Yale, with a focus on ovarian cancer research. At UR, she majored in biochemistry & molecular biology and minored in integrated science. She also participated in URISE, a pre-first year bridge program which aims to increase the number of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in science and math.  

“As a woman from a first-generation, low-income background, I have benefited extensively from research programs aimed to increase diversity and the number of underrepresented groups within STEM,” she said. “With this NSF award, I am able to work toward enhancing STEM diversity and breaking down institutional barriers to the pursuit of scientific careers.”

Matthew Heyrich, a 2021 graduate who majored in physics and minored in mathematics, is studying atomic, molecular, and optical physics at the University of Colorado Boulder

I'm excited to receive this award as it will allow me the flexibility to pursue truly cutting-edge research ripe with potential discovery and scientific impact,” Heyrich said.