Prestigious fellowships for ME students

(April 21st, 2011)
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Brent showalter
Greg Teichert
Oliver Johnson
Three BYU Mechanical Engineering students have been awarded the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Greg Teichert, Oliver Johnson, and Brent Showalter received the prestigious awards after a rigorous selection process, and will benefit from a three-year annual stipend, a generous cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, and an international travel allowance, as well as the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited institution of graduate education they choose.
Greg Teichert, originally from Rock Springs, Wyoming, graduated from BYU with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in December 2010 and started working on a Master’s degree in January 2011. He has been working with professors Brian Jensen and Larry Howell in the microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) research group. He has worked on designing a MEMS device for holding mouse egg cells during DNA injection, and he is currently working on microneedle arrays for the injection of genes into somatic cells.
Teichert plans to finish his MS at BYU, working on the microneedle injection system.  He then hopes to get a PhD in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in Biomedical Engineering. “I am extremely grateful to have received this fellowship,” Teichert said. “I am also grateful to Dr. Jensen and Dr. Howell for the research opportunities and guidance they have given me. I’m excited for the opportunities that the fellowship will open up.”
“Greg is one of the most creative and capable students I’ve ever worked with,” said Dr. Brian Jensen. “Last summer, he was working on ways to restrain biological cells during experiments, and he developed one of the most creative approaches to the problem that I've ever seen. His work on that project is now being reviewed for publication in the ASME Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics.”
Jensen commented further, “Greg’s hard work, intelligence, and creativity make him ideal for an NSF Fellowship. He is very deserving of this award. I’m overjoyed for him, and honored that I have been able to work with him.”
Oliver Johnson, from Sammamish, Washington, graduated from BYU with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in December 2010. However, Johnson started out at BYU as a history teaching major. After his LDS mission he took a career exploration class, and decided to change his major to Mechanical Engineering. It was after an introductory Materials Science course from Dr. Brent Adams that Johnson realized he wanted to work with microstructure design. During the rest of his undergraduate study at BYU, he took several graduate level courses in Materials Science, and did a summer internship at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, designing a nanocomposite sensor to study high-explosive materials.
Johnson is currently pursuing a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the direction of Dr. Christopher Schuh. He intends to seek a position as a professor at a research university when his PhD is complete. “I’m very grateful to have been awarded this fellowship,” he commented. “It was a wonderful feeling to have worked hard for something and to achieve that goal. This fellowship gives me the freedom to really be creative and explore ideas that I might not have otherwise been able to explore.”
“I am so grateful for the guidance and mentoring of Dr. Adams and Dr. Fullwood,” Johnson said. “They have had a profound influence on my life, and it is because of their excellent mentoring of undergraduate researchers that I and so many other of their students have received awards like this.”
“Oliver has always been remarkably independent and versatile,” commented Dr. Brent Adams. “We gave him three different research problems, and he contributed to all of them. He was diligent in publishing papers – several archival papers among them.”
“Oliver is thorough and persistent,” continued Adams. “I would say he is among the most remarkable young talents that I have seen in 30+ years of academic experience.”
Brent Showalter graduated from BYU with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in April 2009. He is currently in the second year of a PhD program in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Showalter is originally from Provo, Utah.
Showalter’s research is focused on determining the causes and development of potential treatments of lower back pain, specifically on the mechanics of the intervertebral disc. “I enjoy my research because I work on challenging and interesting scientific problems that have the potential to improve the quality of life for those suffering from lower back pain,” Showalter said.
“BYU was a fantastic place to receive my undergraduate education,” continued Showalter. “I had research opportunities that I would have had a really hard time getting at any other university. I was given the chance to help develop experiments and protocols, which gave me the chance to apply what I had been learning in the classroom. I also got significant individual mentoring from the professors that I did research for. My professors had figured out the tricky balance of letting me learn and figure things out on my own, but were willing and able to provide direction when needed. All of that directed learning helped prepare me well for my current PhD program and for applying for and receiving the NSF Fellowship.”
Showalter worked as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Anton Bowden. “Brent was also an undergraduate student in my graduate level Biomechanics class,” remembers Bowden. “Our academic research collaborations have been in the field of spinal biomechanics, specifically in developing a novel technique to measure and characterize the anisotropic, nonlinear response of spinal ligament tissue using very small tissue samples. Brent took charge of the project at a level that would be typical of a PhD student and supervised two other undergraduate students who worked with him.”
“Brent has proven himself to be a diligent, insightful, and innovative researcher,” said Bowden. “He asks appropriate questions and is adept at objectively evaluating experimental results—two characteristics that are critical to developing and conducting original research. He has tremendous potential, and receiving the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship provides strong validation of that potential. I am convinced that he will make unique and substantial contributions to the world through his research. Brent is one of the finest students that I have ever known.”
Eleven BYU students were awarded NSF Fellowships for 2011. Of the eleven, five are from the Fulton College of Engineering and Technology.
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in the United States and abroad. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The reputation of the GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become life-long leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching.
Since 1952, NSF has funded 46,500 Graduate Research Fellowships out of more than 500,000 applicants. Fellows share in the prestige and opportunities that become available when they are selected, and more than 440 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences. More than twenty of them have gone on to become Nobel laureates.
The fellowship is competitive, and those planning to apply should devote a sincere effort to their applications. The 2012 GRFP application is expected to become available in August 2011. Visit for more information.