Quinnan receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Whittney Gould
May 18, 2016

Melissa Quinnan, who recently graduated from the Eberly College of Science with an undergraduate degree in physics, was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. 

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.

“The NSF Graduate Fellowship is one of the nation’s top honors for young researchers. The competition for this award is tremendously rigorous, and the recipients are a formidable group of scientists. Melissa has done a great job here at Penn State, and she is poised to move on with a truly exciting career,” said Tanya Furman, director of the University Fellowships Office.

“I'm truly honored to receive this fellowship,” said Quinnan. “It's a lot more than funding. As I understand it, it's the National Science Foundation's way of saying ‘look out for this young scientist’…their way of endorsing me and my potential as a researcher.”

The fellowship’s funding gives Quinnan the freedom to begin conducting the research project of her choice as she begins graduate school. She will use the NSF Graduate Fellowship to continue her study of particle physics as a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she will be working with the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, one of the two major general-purpose particle physics detectors built on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.

This won’t be Quinnan’s first time working with CERN—in the summer of 2015, she was selected to conduct research there as part of the University of Michigan’s CERN Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program.

Since she was a freshman at Penn State, Quinnan has worked in the lab of Doug Cowen, professor of physics and astronomy and astrophysics. Cowen’s lab uses the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory to detect neutrinos. Neutrinos are subatomic particles lacking an electric charge that are capable of conveying astronomical information from the edge of the universe.

Her NSF Graduate Fellowship caps off an impressive undergraduate research career. In addition to her work with Cowen and CERN, Quinnan participated in DAAD-RISE, working at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology on the EDELWEISS dark matter search experiment. DAAD-RISE is a summer internship program pairing undergraduate students from the United States, Canada and the UK studying biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering with research lab experiences in Germany.

For those experiences, Quinnan is grateful to the Department of Physics, particularly her professors Richard Robinett, Doug Cowen, Tyce DeYoung, and Tyler Anderson. “It was their guidance and support that exposed me to particle physics and gave me the research skills and experiences that made this possible,” she said.

She also thanks the Penn State community for helping her achieve her goals. “The Penn State community in general has been wonderful throughout my undergraduate career,” she said. “I've loved the freedom to explore my interests in physics and beyond. The NSF is about broader impacts as much as it is about academic excellence, and I am grateful for the exposure to leadership, outreach and community service experiences during my time at Penn State.”

The University Fellowships Office, a division of Undergraduate Education, is a resource for undergraduates, graduate students and Penn State alumni seeking information and guidance regarding scholarships and fellowships funded by sources other than Penn State. For more information on fellowship opportunities available, visit ufo.psu.edu, or visit their office in 212 Boucke Building.


(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 24, 2016