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Announcing Drexel's 2023 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Honorees

April 25, 2023

We're excited to announce that three Drexel students and recent alumni received the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and two received Honorable Mentions. The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and STEM education fields. GRFP provides up to three years of support for individuals with potential for significant achievements in science and engineering research.

We are so proud of these students, who have demonstrated exemplary commitment to their research. We also extend our thanks to the more than forty faculty and post-doctoral researchers who helped Drexel’s GRFP candidates strengthen their applications by contributing feedback during the campus anonymous review process this year, as well as to the many faculty who supported candidates through mentorship and letters of support. Special thanks go to Dr. Richard McCourt, Dr. Sean O'Donnell, and Dr. Baris Taskin, who offered insight at our GRFP Reviewer Q&A in the fall.

2023 NSF Graduate Research Fellows

Jasjit KaurJasjit Kaur
BS chemistry '22, honors
Graduate Institution: Temple University

Jassie Kaur graduated magna cum laude with a BS in chemistry and a minor in philosophy from Drexel in 2022. Jassie’s academic research experience started in the laboratory of Dr. Hai-feng Ji, where she investigated the electronic properties of organic crystals. She was also awarded an NSF REU in 2021 to perform research in the laboratory of Dr. Marisa Kozlowski at the University of Pennsylvania, where she performed both computational and synthetic research for the study of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules. As a part of Drexel’s co-op system, she also spent six months as an analytical chemistry intern at Dupont in Wilmington, DE in 2019. In 2022, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Sarah Wengryniuk at Temple University working on the I(III)-mediated C-H amination of electron-rich arenes. 

At Drexel, Jassie was involved with the Pennoni Honors College through the Honors Program, as a 2018 STAR Scholar and Velay Fellow, and as a SuperNova Undergraduate Research Fellow.

Shanna SamelsShanna Samels
PhD candidate neuroscience
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rodrigo España

Shanna Samels is a PhD student studying neuroscience at Drexel University. Before attending Drexel, she received her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut where she studied physiology & neurobiology and psychology. While at the University of Connecticut, she conducted research under the mentorship of Dr. John Salamone studying the neural basis of effort related motivation. After graduating she worked as a research assistant at the Nathan Kline Institute in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Sears. While a research assistant, she explored the neurocircuitry of active coping behaviors. Currently at Drexel she is working under the mentorship of Dr. Rodrigo España to investigate how a neuropeptide, hypocretin/orexin, can modulate motivation for drugs of abuse.

Diana Solano-OropezaDiana Solano-Oropeza
BS physics '21
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Jake Ryland Williams, Dr. Stephen McMillan
Graduate Institution: Cornell University

Diana Solano-Oropeza completed their BS in physics with an astrophysics concentration and a minor in sociology at Drexel University in 2021. Diana started research at Drexel through the STAR Scholars program, enabling them to work in Dr. Stephen McMillan's computational astrophysics group for the summer in between their freshman and sophomore years. Under McMillan, they developed a way to produce visual mockups of early star formation simulations comparable to real-life observational images. Later, in their junior and senior years, Diana joined Information Science professor Dr. Jake Ryland Williams' CODED lab, a highly interdisciplinary group that focuses on tackling data science and engineering programs through a socially aware lens. Throughout their third co-op (funded by Drexel LSAMP) and their senior thesis, they tackled a computational linguistics problem concerning the breakdown of Zipf's law in certain domains that required statistical physics to solve, pertinent to natural language processing and the moderation of AI in social media.

After graduating from Drexel, Diana enrolled in the Bridge to the PhD in STEM program at Columbia University. Under the supervision of Dr. David Kipping in the Cool Worlds Lab in the Astronomy Department, they have been developing a catalog of eccentricity data for numerous TESS-detected exoplanets orbiting low-mass stars using a novel technique called the photoeccentric effect.

Diana was awarded the NSF GRFP for their plans to expand and build upon this catalog, address problems in planetary formation and habitability, and engage in bilingual science communication (inspired by their federal work-study position at the Academy of Natural Sciences!). This fall, they will start their PhD in Cornell University's Department of Astronomy, where they will focus on exoplanets, astrostatistics, and astrobiology.

2023 NSF GRFP Honorable Mentions

Ashley Bishop photoAshley Bishop
PhD candidate biomedical engineering, BS/MS '22, honors
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kurtulus Izzetoglu

Ashley Bishop is a biomedical engineering PhD candidate concentrating in neuro-engineering with an interest in brain-computer interactions (BCI). Ashley started her undergraduate research career in Drexel’s iSTAR program researching the integration of BCIs with speech imagery at the Sri Sivasubramaniya Nadar (SSN) College of Engineering in Chennai, India under Dr. A. Kavitha. During her first co-op, she participated in research on assistive technology for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis under Dr. Heinman-Patterson at the Temple University School of Medicine. She also worked with the Cognitive Neuroengineering and Wellbeing Laboratory (CogNeW) lead by Dr. John Medaglia, helping analyze MEP data. For her second and third co-ops, she worked with Dr. Kurtulus Izzetoglu at the Cognitive Neuroengineering and Quantitative Experimental Research (CONQUER) Collaborative and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) on integrating and synchronizing real-time data from physiological devices for adaptive training.

As an undergraduate, Ashley was involved with the Pennoni Honors College as a 2018 STAR Scholar, an Undergraduate Research Mini-Grant recipient, and a fellowships applicant.

Jon MerwinJon Merwin
PhD candidate ecology, evolution, & earth systems
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jason Weckstein

Jon Merwin is a doctoral student working with Dr. Jason Weckstein at the Academy of Natural Sciences. After receiving his BA in environmental biology from Columbia University in 2017, Jon worked in the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Ornithology, where he studied the evolution of colorful plumage in parrots. He is interested in spatial patterns of biodiversity and the evolution of phenotypic complexity. At Drexel, Jon investigates the genomic basis of plumage evolution in birds and integrates museum- and field-based research with public outreach and education.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.

As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. Fellows share in the prestige and opportunities that become available when they are selected. Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend along with a cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.

NSF Fellows are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering. These individuals are crucial to maintaining and advancing the nation's technological infrastructure and national security as well as contributing to the economic well-being of society at large.

For more information about the NSF GRFP, visit To learn more about applying for this award through Drexel, visit our Fellowships Resource site. Access to this site is limited to Drexel users; alumni can request access by emailing