ECE Students Win National Science Foundation Fellowships

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Early Career Recognition to Students who Embrace Cross-Disciplinary Research

By Amy Pollard (GRS ’19)

Alex Matlock wins NSF fellowship
Alex Matlock (EE ’21) researches computational microscopy for medical applications.

PhD candidate Alex Matlock (EE ‘21) and Bachelor of Science candidate Anna Stuhlmacher (EE ’17) received National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships. The honor represents NSF’s commitment to research proposed respectively by Matlock and by Stuhlmacher. The fellowship awards a total of $102,000 through a three-year stipend of $34,000 with an additional $12,000 allowance for tuition and fees. Matlock and Stuhlmacher are two of the 2,000 finalists selected from a pool of more than 13,000 applicants.

Matlock, a first-year PhD student, is engineering a high-sensitivity microscope capable of imaging biological particles at the nanoscale. This technology will support medical applications and help doctors diagnose patients by providing on-site, label-free detection and characterization of viruses and circumventing off-site lab analysis. Guided by co-advisors Professors Lei Tian and Selim Ünlü, Matlock researches computational microscopy and other potential imaging modalities for the medical community.

Matlock’s interest in biomedical research began in high school after reading articles in Popular Science about tissue engineering and prosthetics. His interest in the field expanded while attending the University of California, Irvine, where he majored in biomedical engineering and studied optical imaging systems for noninvasive breast cancer in chemotherapy. He chose to pursue a PhD in electrical engineering to understand imaging system design at a fundamental level.

The NSF Fellowship fuels Matlock’s determination to positively impact the world. “There is a substantial need for improved imaging and diagnostic techniques in the medical field,” he says. “I am excited about pushing the boundaries of existing imaging technologies and developing novel systems for biomedical-related research.”

Anna Stuhlmacher (EE ’17) researches renewable energy in the national power grid.

Stuhlmacher, an undergraduate senior, is developing a national power grid that integrates renewable energy with existing energy storage models. Her research explores ways to make solar panels more cost-effective and ways to account for geographic factors, such as cloud coverage, that impact renewable energy sources in the grid.

“I’ve always been interested in sustainability,” she says. “There are problems with conventional energy sources and it’s a major concern.”

Stuhlmacher, advised by Professor Anna Swan, is interested in sustainability and power energy. Since her freshman year, she has worked with Professor Joshua Semeter to track solar flares in the ionosphere, which can bring power grids down. It wasn’t until she took a control systems course with Professor Alan Pisano that she realized that clean energy and control systems could work together.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind. Matlock and Stuhlmacher join a distinguished community of past fellows, which includes U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.