SJSU Students Awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships and Honorable Mentions

NSF students
Left, Anjum Gajral. Right, Grace Jeanpierre.

Congratulations to Anjum Gujral (class of 2020) and Grace Jeanpierre (class of 2019), who were recently awarded prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships (GRFPs) from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The GRFP, which provides PhD students with three years of full funding, is the NSF’s most competitive national award for students. Undergraduate research experiences play an important role in preparing students for graduate school, and both of these students gained research experiences in laboratories in the College of Science at SJSU. 

While an undergraduate at SJSU, Anjum Gujral worked with Dr. Susan Lambrecht, Dr. Tracy Misiewicz and Dr. Ben Carter in the Biology Department. Anjum’s research projects included greenhouse, field and laboratory studies and focused on studying evolutionary responses to drought in a native wildflower called True Babystars, and the conservation biology of a rare redwood forest wildflower called Dudley’s Lousewort. Her work resulted in two research poster presentations, one of which won second place for Best Student Poster, and she coauthored a peer-reviewed journal article from her work in the Lambrecht laboratory, and is the lead author on a second manuscript currently under review from her work in the Carter laboratory. Anjum is currently in the Master’s program at San Francisco State University in Dr. Kevin Simonin’s research laboratory where she studies the intersections of plant ecophysiology and plant restoration in montane meadows. Anjum’s successful GRFP proposal focused on the importance of including plant functional traits in the development of effective conservation strategies, and she plans to build on her current work as an MS student to continue developing this integrative approach as a PhD student beginning in the fall of 2022.

Grace Jeanpierre was a part of three SJSU College of Science programs that provide financial support to under-represented minority students to help them gain valuable research experience: CSU Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (CSU-LSAMP), the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE), and the NIH-funded Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) program.  Although Grace was an Electrical Engineering major, she gained research experience in Dr. Abraham Wolcott’s physical chemistry laboratory. Grace worked on two projects; she first worked with ZnO nanorods as a photoelectrochemical cell for hydrogen evolution from water splitting and then transitioned to working with amination chemistry on nanodiamond surfaces for biodetection. Grace made strong contributions to the amination project and is an author of a manuscript entitled, “Brominated nanoscale diamond enables room temperature and catalysis free functionalization chemistry” that is under review at the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Grace’s research journey is expansive and included work at SJSU, The Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) and beyond. Grace is currently a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, working in the laboratory of Dr. Samantha Santacruz doing research on neurotherapeutics. 

Three SJSU Biology and Chemistry Students Receive Honorable Mentions:

The NSF recognizes additional outstanding students each year with honorable mentions.  This year, this prestigious recognition was given to three former SJSU students, all of whom had undergraduate research experiences in the SJSU College of Science: Jasmine Garcia, Theodore Tran and Natanya Villegas.

Jasmine Garcia was an LSAMP scholar working in Dr. Brandon White's research laboratory. Jasmine’s project was to look at gene expression changes in breast cancer cells treated with a walnut extract. After graduating from SJSU she went on to work at Stanford University before being accepted into the Biology and Biomedical Sciences PhD program at Harvard University where she will start this fall. 

Theofore Tran was an undergraduate in the Biology Department and worked with Dr. Jessica Castillo Vardaro in her Molecular Ecology Laboratory. Theodore’s research included molecular sexing of American pika from fecal DNA, designing a device to passively survey and sample urban tree squirrels, and modeling the distribution of tree squirrels throughout the United States. After graduating from SJSU, he continued to work in the Molecular Ecology Laboratory while also starting work with Dr. Maya deVries in her Marine Ecology Laboratory where his research included examining climate change effects on mantis shrimp, a vicious marine predator. Theodore presented his research on squirrels at the Annual Meeting of the Western Section of the Wildlife Society and at the 33rd Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium. He is currently preparing a first-author manuscript for publication on the distribution of native and introduced tree squirrels with Dr. Castillo Vardaro and Dr. Ben Carter. Theodore intends to apply to graduate school in Marine Biology in Fall 2021.

Natanya Villegas was an NIH RISE and MARC fellow in Dr. Katherine Wilkinson’s Neurophysiology laboratory in the Biology Department. Natanya is currently a second year graduate student at the University of Oregon in Dr. Calin Plesa’s research group, with the goal of performing high-impact, multidisciplinary work, while learning the skills needed to succeed in academia and industry.

Congratulations to all of our College of Science alumni who received this national recognition in this year and in past years, and good luck in your PhD programs! We are proud of you and look forward to your future successes.