Wednesday, June 03

Brookdale Newsroom

Four Students Earn NASA STEM Fellowships
Brookdale's four new NASA STEM Fellows stand on the Lincroft campus.

Four Brookdale students will complete intensive undergraduate research projects and earn $1,500 toward their education this year after being selected as the college’s newest NASA STEM Fellows.

The students, who will also serve as peer tutors in Brookdale’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Institute this year, are: Jordan Grillo, of Aberdeen; Brianna Valdes, of Lincroft; Karl Waldron, of Neptune; and Jon Zukowski, of Millstone. Beginning this fall, the students will work with designated mentors to design and carry out a research project in their field of study. Their results will be presented to classmates, colleagues and Brookdale faculty during a public forum this spring.

The new fellows are the fourth cohort of students selected to join Brookdale’s NASA STEM Fellowship program, which is funded by a grant from NASA and the New Jersey Space Grant Consortium (NJSGC). The program was established in 2015.

“This program has created enormous opportunities for our students, and we are very excited to welcome our newest cohort of NASA STEM Fellows,” said assistant biology professor Gitanjali Kundu, who administers the grant program alongside assistant mathematics professor Susan Monroe. “Not only will they perform valuable research and assist their classmates in their own studies, these students will also serve as STEM ambassadors for the college.”

Grillo, a mathematics major who plans to work with assistant mathematics professor Ana Teodorescu on her year-long research project, said she is both honored and humbled to join the fellowship program.

“I am beyond excited and so thrilled to say that I am part of the 4th cohort of the NASA Fellows,” said Grillo. “Overall, being selected to be part of the cohort proves that hard work and dedication does pays off. I am proud of my work so far and excited to see where my hard work brings me in life.”

Valdes, a biology major, plans to work with Brookdale faculty to develop an environmentally friendly hydroponic agricultural system, which she will use to highlight “the ease of sustainability” to the college community.

“I am extremely grateful for the financial and academic benefits accompanied by this prestigious scholarship,” said Valdes. “With the help of the fellowship grant, I plan to dedicate more time and energy in my personal academic pursuits and STEM related projects, while spending less time typically dedicated to work in mitigating financial expenses.”

Waldron plans to work alongside Monroe and his personal mentor, neuroscientist Dr. Shawniqua Williams, to study the treatment decisions made by certain patients suffering from epilepsy. His goal, he said, is to understand why a disparate number of minority patients elect not to have surgery, even in worst-case scenarios.

“This scholarship means a lot to me, personally, because I wasn’t the best student academically in high school,” said Waldron. “For me to work this hard and become a NASA Fellow, it makes me feel good and validates my belief that anything is possible if you’re willing to work for it. I have always wanted to get involved in research and this has given me the platform to finally do it.”

Zukowski, a Marine Corps veteran and an electrical engineering major, hopes to work with faculty from Rutgers University to design and carry out a project centered on robotics and artificial intelligence.

“It is a rapidly expanding field and, within it, there is a good amount of potential to make novel discoveries and innovations that I hope to be a part of,” said Zukowski. “I’m really grateful that an opportunity like this exists, and honored to have been selected for it.”

The new STEM Fellows will join current STEM Institute peer tutors Matthew Chan and Jonathan Yuh to offer free tutoring services this year in Brookdale’s STEM Lounge, located in MAS 107.  For more information or to see tutor availability visit the STEM Lounge webpage.