A Distinguished Dozen

Columbia Engineers Named NSF Graduate Research Fellows

Jun 17 2019

Twelve Columbia engineering students have been selected to receive graduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF), among the nation’s most prestigious honors for young engineers and scientists. These Columbia engineers—eight current graduate students and four recent alumni—will begin their fellowships this fall.

The fellows, who the NSF expects to “become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering,” receive three-year annual stipends of $34,000 as well as $12,000 educational allowances to pursue graduate-level degrees and research. Among just 2051 awardees selected from thousands of applicants, their research interests span sustainable energy to natural language processing.

At the same time, six alumni and current students also earned honorable mentions from the NSF.


Emily Allaway

Computer science PhD candidate Emily Allaway came to Columbia last fall to explore how natural language processing can better break down the implicit sentiments and connotation of language in addition to its literal meaning. Working with her adviser, Professor Kathleen McKeown, she hopes to develop more sophisticated tools for understanding speech.

Martha Barker

A PhD candidate in Professor Martha Kim’s Columbia Architecture and Design Lab, computer scientist Martha Barker’s research focuses on hardware techniques to improve accelerators and data-centric accelerator design.

Alicia Dagle ’18

A member of Professor Karen Kasza’s Living Materials Lab, mechanical engineer Alicia Dagle is currently studying the role of forces in embryonic development, particularly of fruit flies. Previously a biophysics researcher, she is also interested in applying novel imaging techniques to inform medical procedures and protocols.

Raiyan Khan

Computer scientist graduate student Raiyan Khan came to Columbia last year to explore various intersections of computational biology and machine learning. Her research has included processes of functional brain networks and the genetics of memory disorders.

Alina Kline-Schoder

A member of Professor Elisa Konofagou’s Ultrasound Elasticity and Imaging Laboratory since last fall, biomedical engineer Alina Kline-Schoder utilizes ultrasound to open the blood-brain barrier for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Manav Kohli

Electrical engineer Manav Kohli works on full-duplex wireless technology with Professor Gil Zussman in Columbia Engineering’s Wireless and Mobile Networking Lab and the COSMOS wireless testbed in West Harlem. A recent recipient of a fellowship from the National Physical Science Consortium, Kohli plans to develop components for next-generation 5G and 6G networks in smart cities and developing regions.

Lingting Shi

Biomedical engineer Lingting Shi came to Columbia in 2017 to join Professor Lance Kam’s Microscale Biocomplexity Laboratory, where she is studying properties of cellular mechanosensing in hopes of developing novel therapies for autoimmune diseases. She is also interested in how machine learning can incorporate huge data sets for insights into biological questions.

Daniel Tavakol

A member of Professor Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic’s Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, biomedical engineer Daniel Tavakol is developing patient-specific multi-tissue models of disease and drug toxicity. His integrated microphysiological systems promise to advance both tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.


Justin Bui ’19

A chemical engineer, Bui is interested in electrochemistry and energy, especially with regard to generating solar fuels and leveraging renewable resources. He conducted research with Professor Daniel Esposito during his time at Columbia and will begin a PhD program this fall in a joint appointment between UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Garrett Kaighn ’18

As a Columbia Engineering undergrad, electrical engineer Garrett Kaighn worked under Professor Ken Shepard in the Columbia Bioelectronic Systems Lab developing DNA nanopore sequencing technology and utilizing graphene in electronic devices. A recipient of the Edwin Howard Armstrong Memorial Award, he is currently a graduate student in electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

David Kim ’18

A PhD student in environmental engineering entering his second year at Yale, David Kim focuses on photosynthetic agents for improving solar disinfection of water for point-of-use treatment in developing nations. He is investigating natural, edible photosynthesizers that produce a reactive oxygen that destroys both bacteria and viruses.

John Pederson ’19

A mechanical engineer from Houston, Texas, John Pederson is interested in designing deployable structures for satellites and space probes, an area he first explored as a member of the Columbia Space Initiative. He will join Caltech’s aerospace department as a graduate student this fall, and hopes to collaborate on projects with NASA’s nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


Sara Lytle ’18GS

After earning a duel BA between Columbia’s School of General Studies and SciencesPo in France in sustainable development and transatlantic law, respectively, Sara Lytle began graduate research in earth and environmental engineering with Professor Pierre Gentine studying hydrologic cycling and canopy flux modeling in Puerto Rico.

Anthony Rizzo

Electrical engineer Anthony Rizzo came to Columbia in 2017 to research silicon photonics in Professor Keren Bergman’s Lightwave Research Laboratory. His current work focuses on utilizing optical interconnects to increase bandwidth and lower power consumption of data centers and high-performance computing systems. Rizzo recently accepted a SMART scholarship from the Department of Defense.


Sharon Chen ’19

Studying with Professor Christos Papadimitriou inspired computer scientist Sharon Chen to explore how advanced computation can inform studies of the human brain. She will begin a PhD program in social and decision neuroscience at Caltech this fall.

Ivy Huang ‘18

In addition to her work as a chemical engineer synthesizing solid state materials and batteries from pure elements, Ivy Huang was also on the Columbia women’s rowing team. Seeking to connect her experiences, she is currently a PhD student developing bio-integrated electronics with the goal of monitoring health and improving training regimens.

Evan Walter Clark Spotte-Smith ‘19

Materials scientist and sustainability engineer Evan Walter Clark Spotte-Smith became interested in better batteries while working to provide electricity to a rural community in Uganda with Columbia’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders. He is heading to UC Berkeley this fall to pursue his PhD and use computational methods to better understand the solid-electrolyte interface in batteries.

Joanna Zhang ’19

Working in Professor Tal Danino’s Synthetic Biological Systems Laboratory for three years, biomedical engineer Joanna Zhang’s research focused on synthetic biology and bacterial cancer therapy. She will head to UC-San Diego this fall to pursue her PhD in bioengineering.