Two Chemical Engineering Ph.D. Students and one Alumnus Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Pictured left to right: Elizabeth Aikman, Nico Mendez, and Marisa Pacheco

Ph.D. students Elizabeth L. Aikman and Marisa O. Pacheco and alumnus Nico Mendez (UF B.S. ChE ’20) were awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. These fellowships recognize and support outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions. 

Aikman is pursuing her Ph.D. under the guidance of Whitney L. Stoppel, Ph.D. Aikman joined the Stoppel Lab in fall 2021 after completing a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Kansas. 

“I feel very fortunate and honored to be awarded the NSF GRFP. As a first year Ph.D. student the application process provided an excellent opportunity to dive right into the content of my Ph.D. project and understand its potential impact. I could not have accomplished this without the support of Dr. Whitney Stoppel and my lab mates. This award will provide me with the support to pursue impactful research to advance my field and help me grow as a researcher and mentor,” Aikman said. 

Pacheco is also pursuing her Ph.D. under the guidance of Dr. Stoppel. Pacheco joined the Stoppel Lab as an REU student during the summer of 2019, and again in fall 2020 after completing a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Colorado. She is currently contributing to a Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program project on silk particles with lab collaborator, Bruce D Spiess, MD, FAHA, in the UF Department of Anesthesiology. 

“I am honored and grateful to be chosen as an NSF graduate research fellow. Going through the application process once as an undergraduate, and again this past year has helped me grow immensely in my skills, presenting research ideas, and advocating for myself. I am so thankful to the many people that helped me shape the application package, both peers and professors from UF and beyond. This recognition opens the door for many future endeavors related to my future career goals in the advancement of research, engineering education, and continued commitment to broader impacts,” Pacheco said. 

Mendez is pursuing his Ph.D. under the guidance of Sanat K. Kumar, Ph.D., the Michael Bykhovsky and Charo Gonzalez-Bykhovsky Professor of Chemical Engineering at Columbia University. In the Kumar Research Group, Mendez works on the crystallization kinetics and dispersion of semicrystalline polymers. Mendez received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida in 2020. At UF, he worked in the Colina Group in the department of chemistry, studying the adsorption of gases in polymers of intrinsic microporosity using monte carlo and molecular dynamics simulation techniques. 

“I was thrilled to find out that I won the NSF GRFP award, and I am very thankful to the faculty at both the University of Florida and Columbia University who supported me in my application,” Mendez said.