Russ College awarded federal grants to support graduate students in areas of national need

Published: March 2, 2022 Author: Jalyn Bolyard

Ohio University has been awarded Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Fellowship grants by the U.S. Department of Education.

The three OHIO programs awarded the funding include chemical and biomolecular engineering; carbon-based materials for sustainable building and energy applications in mechanical engineering, physics, chemical and biomolecular engineering; and supply chain research in industrial and systems engineering.

“It is a great opportunity to impact students pursuing advanced degrees in the STEM fields, and I am grateful that the Department of Education chose our group to receive this award,” said John Staser, Ph.D., Russ College associate professor and director of the fellowship in chemical and biomolecular engineering.

The GAANN program funds doctoral and graduate fellowships to students who aim to become faculty members or high-impact researchers in areas of high need. The GAANN will waive tuition and grant a stipend to each student fellow.

“The U.S. Department of Education funds will be utilized to provide interdisciplinary experiential learning opportunities for engineering and physics students interested in developing carbon-based materials for building and energy applications. Such materials can offer equivalent or better performance with lower embodied emissions, helping abate climate change while increasing supply chain security,” said Jason Trembly, Ph.D., Russ Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the fellowship in carbon-based materials for sustainable building and energy applications.

“We need to make sure that these funds are used in the most impactful way possible so that the research, the science that these PhD students and their advisors produce make an impact. They can inform and guide policymaking, and also support the economy and well-being of the country,” said Felipe Aros-Vera, Ph.D., Russ College assistant professor and director of the fellowship in industrial and systems engineering.

In addition to the various research projects they can participate in, GAANN Fellows will also work closely with undergraduate students, including lecturing in courses to gain teaching experience and mentoring undergraduate student researchers.

“The GAANN Fellows will have teaching and mentoring opportunities that are often not afforded graduate students,” Staser said. “This type of direct teaching is not very common in engineering programs like ours. The GAANN Fellows will also participate in a variety of professional development activities.”

Fellows in the chemical and biomolecular engineering program have the opportunity to partake in different research projects, all having electrochemical engineering as the theme. According to Staser, typical projects for the students include developing materials and devices for electrochemical energy conversion and storage, as well as corrosion studies and electrochemical applications to the biomedical field. 

Fellows in the industrial and systems engineering program can research in three different projects of supply chain design, supply chain resilience, and supply chain for social and economic prosperity. Aros-Vera notes that the importance of supply chains is understood by many now due to the COVID pandemic.

“Supply chains are the backbone of the economy. You need a solid infrastructure, you need a reliable and resilient transportation network; all items important for the country, for Ohio, for Appalachian region, and so on,” Aros-Vera said. “It’s very well-aligned with what we aspire to do.”

Fellows in the carbon-based materials for sustainable building and energy applications program will also have several areas of research they can work in. From developing carbon foams for building applications, 3D printing, to sensor and energy applications, the projects all look at how to utilize carbon-based materials to increase sustainability of the built environment.

For more information about the GAANN Fellowship programs at OHIO and how to apply, visit the Russ College’s webpage.

“The goal is to graduate top researchers who can quickly make an impact in the grant’s particular field,” Staser said. “This is a great opportunity for graduate students to work on cutting-edge research projects while at the same time participating in comprehensive professional development activities.”