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Four NMSU Civil Engineering Students Receive $30,000 in Federal Fellowships

Four graduate students in New Mexico State University’s Civil Engineering Department recently were awarded sizable fellowships through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.

Mark Manning received $10,000, Jose Pasillas Rodriguez and Daniel Diaz each received $7,500, and Abram Lane received $5,000 through the Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program.

“The program awards fellowships to students pursuing degrees in transportation-related disciplines,” says the program’s webpage on the USDOT’s website. “This program advances the transportation workforce by attracting the brightest minds to the field through education, research and workforce development.”

The students were nominated for the fellowships by David Jauregui, principal investigator, Brad Weldon and Paola Bandini in the Civil Engineering Department.

“NMSU applied to the USDOT’s fellowship program and we were selected as one of the schools to receive it,” said Monica Lopez, scholarship coordinator in the College of Engineering and campus manager for the fellowship program. “After we were notified, we created an application that was open to the entire university.”

Lopez said this was because the fellowship program is not solely restricted to engineering students, but to any discipline that has to do with transportation.

To be considered for the fellowship program, the students had to submit four recommendation letters, transcripts, resumes, as well as a number of essays, to the department, which then turned over the applications to the federal program to get the fellowships.

One essay had to detail their research areas.

“My research involves acoustic emission sensors,” said Lane. “You apply them to a structure—in our case, a bridge—and when a load goes over the bridge, it generates waves and these waves pass through the material of the bridge and the sensors record missteps in the waves, such as cracks. The sensors tell you the health of the bridge and if there’s cracking in the concrete.”

The students also had to submit essays detailing why they chose to pursue careers in civil engineering.

“I started in mechanical engineering but I switched my sophomore year to civil because I wanted to be more involved in infrastructure,” Lane said. “NMSU has a really strong civil engineering program, it does a lot of work with bridges, and that’s what interested me.”

The students will soon submit abstracts to the fellowship program to be considered to give presentations on their research at the program’s Transportation Research Board annual meeting, Jan. 8-12, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

With his fellowship, Lane said he plans to put it toward his tuition, as well as his research, to buy materials such as sensors and software.

“I’d like to thank Monica for helping bring things together and my advisers and the Department of Civil Engineering,” said Lane.

The Eisenhower Fellowship Program was established in 1991 and awards $2 million in fellowships annually. Fellowships are available to students pursuing associate to advanced academic and professional degrees.

NMSU, through the Department of Civil Engineering, was approved by the Federal Highway Administration to host the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program –Hispanic Serving Institutions Fellowship for the 2016-2017 Academic Year.

Author:  Billy Huntsman – NMSU