Sciences Scholars Named University Center of Exemplary Mentoring Program Fellows

With goals to boost science, engineering, and computing Ph.D. researchers from underserved populations, UCEM grows in 2023 to include students from Schools of Biological Sciences, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Mathematics, and Physics

October 10, 2023

Five Ph.D. scholars from the College of Sciences are the newest members of the Georgia Tech University Center of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM) Ph.D. Fellowship program, which now includes the College’s Center for Promoting Inclusion and Equity in the Sciences (C-PIES).

“This is the first year the College of Sciences has been involved with UCEM, and it will be very impactful for the professional development for these students,” says Lewis Wheaton, C-PIES director and professor in the School of Biological Sciences. “The process for selection was highly competitive and these students really demonstrate strong scientific ability, have compelling research, and are having a powerful impact in the college community and beyond.”

The new UCEM/C-PIES Fellows:

The Georgia Tech UCEM Ph.D. Fellowship program has the goal of increasing the number of outstanding engineering, science, and computing Ph.D. students from underserved populations. The program seeks to support students from backgrounds that include African American/Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Pacific Islander. The Georgia Tech UCEM Ph.D. Fellowship provides three years of support for students who have recently completed the Ph.D. Qualifying/Preliminary exam.

C-PIES at the College of Sciences works in collaboration with the College of Engineering and the College of Computing — through the Georgia Tech Underrepresented Minority (URM) Graduate Leadership Initiative — to support the Expand Access focus area of the Institute’s strategic plan for graduate student enrollment and retention.

Meet the College of Sciences UCEM Fellows

Sarah E. Gonzalez

“I was excited and relieved to find out I was a UCEM Fellow. As everyone knows, being a grad student isn’t the most financially stable position, so anything extra is a big help,” Gonzales says.

Gonzalez researches in the lab of Associate Professor Elisabetta Matsumoto, studying knitted fabrics and their mechanical behavior. “She is my biggest supporter at Georgia Tech. We have a very tight-knit and supportive research group.”

Danielle Grau

“I was shocked and elated when I received the email with the news, and excited about the opportunity to be a part of such a prestigious fellowship,” Grau says. “I am excited to see what opportunities and relationships it will forge in the future.”

Assistant Professor Alexander Robel is Grau’s thesis adviser. “I am extremely grateful and appreciative for all the support, guidance, and encouragement he has given me throughout my time at Georgia Tech. He's a phenomenal mentor and advisor, and I wouldn’t have had any success without him.”

Sierra A. Knavel

“I was enthusiastic to hear about receiving the award,” Knavel says, “and eager to join a community that wants to help each other succeed while at Georgia Tech.”

Knavel, whose research interests include low-dimensional topology, has Professor John Etnyre as an adviser. “He is the reason I can say I'm in the math Ph.D. program, and that I know I belong here.”

Tony Lemos

“When I applied to the UCEM fellowship, I had doubts that I was accomplished enough to be chosen for this fellowship,” Lemos says. “When I received the email announcing that I had been selected for this award, it was a great surprise, and I was immediately filled with immense gratitude. I am very thankful to be one of the students to receive this gift that will help me become the first in my family to obtain a doctoral degree.”

Lemos is a research assistant in the biophysics lab of Professor Harold Kim, who is his adviser. “He has been a great mentor who helped me get this far at Georgia Tech. He is a great role model that showed me what it means to be an effective scientist. He also challenged me to grow in areas I was uncomfortable with in the lab. I am thankful for his mentorship and unending support.”

Autumn Peterson

“I was super excited to hear that I was named a UCEM Ph.D. Fellow,” Peterson says. “Mentorship has always been important to me. I would not be in the position I am in now without mentors who have supported me throughout my academic career. I am looking forward to strengthening my mentorship skills and serving as a role model for aspiring scientists coming from underrepresented backgrounds like I do.”

Peterson’s adviser is Associate Professor William Ratcliff, who is also Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Quantitative Biosciences. ‘I want to thank him for his immense support throughout my academic journey. I would also like to thank Anthony Burnetti, a senior research scientist in the Ratcliff lab. Both Ratcliff and Burnetti are both extremely supportive, kind, and knowledgeable, and I am grateful to have them as mentors.”

Earlier this year, Peterson and Ratcliff were co-awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study.

“We are so proud of our UCEM/C-PIES Fellows," says Lea Marzo, C-PIES Program Operations Director. "The students selected for this fellowship are brilliant researchers and we are delighted that Georgia Tech’s Office of the President is making an investment in their success. We cannot wait to see what the future has in store for these fellows."

For More Information Contact

Writer: Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences

Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston