Stony Brook grad students soar in NSF nominations

Of mice and fellows: Gabrielle Paniccia, a Stony Brook University graduate student focused on gene-editing in mice, is one of 11 SBU students nominated this year for prestigious National Science Foundation fellowships.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Stony Brook University dominated the field Tuesday as 18 SUNY graduate students were named candidates for prestigious National Science Foundation fellowships.

All told, five State University of New York campuses were represented in this year’s NSF Graduate Research Fellowship nominees. The University at Albany, Binghamton University and the University at Buffalo each posted two nominees, and the SUNY Polytechnic Institute in upstate Oneida County added one.

But SBU ruled the SUNY roost, with 11 Graduate Research Fellowship nominees – including nine women – among the 2019 field.

The Long Island jewel of the SUNY system also led Island institutions on the NSF’s 2019 nominations list. Only one other LI-based graduate student, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory plant biologist Lyndsey Aguirre, made the cut.

Ann Lin: Positive response.

Another 16 SUNY graduate students – including six from SBU – earned honorable mentions.

Among the Stony Brook nominees are biochemist Ann Lin, who’s working up mass-spectrometry-based “organ-on-chip” technology to measure patient drug responses; biologist Katherine Choulin, a student of vertebrate development and “stem cell fate decisions”; and chemist Diana Lutz, a disciple of kingpin SBU/Brookhaven National Laboratory researcher Esther Takeuchi focused on battery performance.

Other SBU graduate students on the list are applied mathematician Jessica Maghakian, a fan of optimization algorithms; Gabrielle Paniccia, a biochemist developing a gene-editing system to target a cancer-causing virus in mice; and psychologist Tim Sullivan, who studies social pressures on LGBTQ relationships.

Kristina Johnson: Innovation leader.

Joining them are fellow researchers Christopher Tang, an engineer (and also a member of SBU’s Marschilok-Takeuchi Research Group) focused on electric vehicles and grid-level energy storage, and Daneele Thorpe, a psychologist exploring the behavioral and socioemotional effects of childhood trauma.

Rounding out the SBU nominees are Hindry Drillick, a mathematician conducting research into dynamical systems; Stephanie Johnson, an anthropologist exploring race, class, disabilities and other factors in the “special education-to-prison pipeline”; and biologist Savannah LaBua, who studies the eastern Gulf of Alaska ecosystem.

A total of 2,050 nominees from across the country were included on the NSF’s 2019 list. They have until April 29 to formally accept their fellowships; those who do will receive a $34,000 annual stipend – and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for their graduate institution – for a five-year period.

Forecasting the “next generation (of) leaders in their respective fields,” SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson trumpeted the university system’s strong showing as a win for the entire state.

“I am so proud of the students who have received recognition from the NSF, which for almost seven decades has been the premier agency for funding scientific research in our country,” Johnson said Tuesday. “These fellowships demonstrate that SUNY remains at the forefront of innovation and scientific discovery.”