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Clarkson University Students & Alumni Awarded NSF Fellowships

Clarkson University seniors Michael Lee and Sergio Gallucci, and graduate student Lindsay Avolio '15 have been awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship for 2016.

Clarkson graduates Mark Surette ’08, now at Oregon State University, and Ruisheng Wang ’15, now at Cornell University, have also won the award.

In addition, Clarkson seniors Skyler Canute and Jacob Misch, and graduate Sean Moran ’11, now at Vanderbilt University, received honorable mentions.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) received close to 17,000 applications for the 2016 competition and made 2,000 award offers. NSF fellows are expected to contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering fields.

Benefits of the award include a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. graduate institution they choose.

Lindsay AvolioLindsay Avolio'15 of Norwich, N.Y., is a Ph.D. candidate in the Interdisciplinary Bioscience and Biotechnology Program at Clarkson in Asst. Prof. Shantanu Sur’s Cell-Material Interactions Lab, where she considers the effects of substrate characteristics on cell behavior. Her NSF proposal is on the development of a microparticle based inhalational delivery system to induce an effective immune response against cancer. She hopes to use her unique background not only to advance the field of immunomodulation, but also to promote communication between the public realm and scientific community.

Avolio graduated from Clarkson in 2015 with a dual degree in biology and interdisciplinary social sciences with a concentration in women and gender studies and a minor in chemistry. The summer of her sophomore year she was awarded an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Clarkson under the mentorship of Prof. Michael Twiss, where she considered the influence of trace elements on phytoplankton communities in the St. Lawrence River. She later continued this work and aided in the design and implementation of a long-term water quality data collection station along the river. As a senior, she conducted an analysis of publications in various American Medical Journals to study the relationship between alternative medicine and the conventional healthcare system under the mentorship of Assoc. Prof. Stephen Casper and was awarded first place in a statewide conference.

Left to right: Sergio Gallucci, Jacob Misch, Michael Lee, and Skyler Canute.Sergio Gallucci '16 of Campbell Hall, N.Y., a graduate of Washingtonville Senior High School, is a senior in the Honors Program majoring in aeronautical engineering. He was involved in the Honors Pre-Frosh Summer Research program before coming to Clarkson, where he researched algal growth in leachate under Prof. Susan Powers. After his first year, he modeled wind energy optimization methods with Assoc. Prof. Kenneth Visser, and used that experience to enter the aero field. In 2014, he worked as an intern for Ras Labs at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory on electroactive Synthetic Muscle polymers, which are currently being tested in the International Space Station. He has also worked for Deep Space Industries on spacecraft and systems engineering for the past two years. Gallucci's thesis research explores particle trajectories within the extraction region of a highly-efficient spacecraft thruster so as to better understand thruster plumes.

Outside of class and work, Gallucci has been involved in founding an on-campus chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, growing the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, and he is currently part of the Community of Underrepresented Professional Opportunities Advisory Board. His NSF proposal detailed an analysis of the performance characteristics of water as a propellant on a helicon plasma ambipolar thruster for small spacecraft, which he believes could shift the current space exploration and development paradigm. Gallucci will be pursuing an M.S. in aerospace engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. His long-term goals are to attain a doctorate and to help push forward space resource acquisition and space settlement.

Michael Lee '16 of Oneonta, N.Y., a graduate of Oneonta High School, is a senior majoring in aeronautical engineering with a minor in philosophy. He is a member of the Honors Program and is a teaching assistant for the first-year honors courses in ethics. In the summer after his first year, Lee began researching nonplanar wing aerodynamics under the guidance of Assoc. Prof. Kenneth Visser. This research, which was also the subject of Lee’s NSF proposal, has yielded results that suggest a new relationship between wing bending and efficiency. His research in nonplanar wing aerodynamics has culminated in his honors thesis, which will be presented at the spring 2016 Symposium on Undergraduate Research Experiences. He hopes that one day his research can help improve the efficiency of the aviation industry. Lee will begin his doctoral education in theoretical aerodynamics at Duke University next year and will pursue a research career in aerodynamics and plane design in industry and academia.

Skyler Canute '16 of Manlius, N.Y., a graduate of Jamesville-Dewitt High school, is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in biomedical engineering and mathematics. During his second summer at Clarkson, he studied some of the adverse health risks to leading a sedentary life and if exoskeletons could be a possible aide to individuals who are chair or bedbound. During his junior year he went on a co-op with Halyard Health and worked on improving radiofrequency probes used for chronic pain treatments. He is the co-activities chair for the Tau Beta Pi honor society and is working with professors and administration on the climate and engagement committee to improve diversity and inclusion across campus. His NSF proposal is on exoskeletons and incorporating myoelectric control to create more fluid and natural movement for individuals that use them. Canute will be pursuing his Ph. D. in biomedical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology with the long term goal of trying to restore mobility to individuals with restricted physical capabilities.

Jacob Misch '16 of Earlville, N.Y., a graduate of Norwich High School, is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in mathematics. Before his freshman year began, he conducted research in Clarkson’s wind tunnels with Michael Lee and Prof. Pier Marzocca to measure the influence of vortex-induced vibrations on bridge models. He traveled to Tsinghua University in Beijing last summer for a research experience, where he fabricated and observed supercapacitor electrode materials. He is using the data from this research to finish his honors thesis. Furthermore, the applications of supercapacitors inspired his NSF proposal, which focused on methods to create materials with higher capacitance. He is currently working on an orthopedic biomechanical project with Asst. Prof. Laurel Kuxhaus and Asst. Prof. Philip Yuya. He is a mentor for the honors sophomore project course and is the student coordinator of the spring 2016 Symposium on Undergraduate Research Experiences. He will be pursuing his Ph.D. in bioengineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. He wants to conduct research and teach at the university level in rehabilitation engineering, biomechanical devices, and macroscale robotics.

Mark Surette '08 majored in civil and environmental engineering while at Clarkson. Upon graduation, he began a career as an environmental engineer at Ecology & Environment Inc. focusing on large-scale remediation projects at contaminated sediment Superfund sites. During his six-year career, Surette become project manager at the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site, one of the largest and most complex sediment remediation projects in the United States, and also earned his professional engineering license in environmental engineering. Currently, Surette is pursuing his Ph.D. in environmental engineering at Oregon State University. Under the mentorship of Prof. Jeff Nason, Surette is researching the environmental fate of engineered nanomaterials within freshwater aquatic systems.

Ruisheng (Rick) Wang '15, a graduate of the Honors Program, is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at Cornell University. At Clarkson, he conducted undergraduate research under the mentorship of Prof. Ratneshwar Jha and completed his honors thesis under the mentorship of Prof. Charles Robinson. Wang was awarded the Goldwater Scholarship during his junior year along with a summer research fellowship through Harvard-MIT Health Sciences & Technology. At Cornell, he is currently working on developing point-of-care infectious disease diagnostics for low-resource settings. His NSF proposal discussed a microfluidics-based platform for multiplexed quantitative detection of serological antibodies. Wang is also currently the chief marketing officer for Technology Entrepreneurship at Cornell and aspires to eventually start his own biotech company.

Sean Moran '11 majored in biology with a minor in chemistry while attending Clarkson. At Clarkson he conducted research under Prof. Edward Moczydlowski on the KcsA K+ channel and completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates in biochemistry at Texas A&M University, where he examined biofilm abnormalities after genetic manipulation in Bacillus subtilis. Moran is currently pursuing a neuroscience Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University under the mentorship of Prof. P. Jeffery Conn at the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery. His thesis project examines the functional selectivity of muscarinic positive allosteric modulators to better understand their potential as a therapeutic agent for schizophrenia. His long-term goal is to transition to the pharmaceutical industry and continue research in neuroscience drug discovery.

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, New York, and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University students have been awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships for 2016. Left to right: Sergio Gallucci (fellowship), Jacob Misch (honorable mention), Michael Lee (fellowship), and Skyler Canute (honorable mention).

Photo caption: Clarkson University graduate student Lindsay Avolio has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship for 2016. Avolio is a Ph.D. candidate in the Interdisciplinary Bioscience and Biotechnology Program.

[Photographs for media use are available at and]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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