2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

April 2, 2021

Four Physical Sciences Division students have been awarded 2021 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships: Jazmine Jefferson in astronomy, Antares Chen in computer science, Melissa Adrian in statistics, and Lauren Weiss in physics.

Honorable mentions were awarded to Patrick Kelly in chemistry and George Iskander in physics.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program logo

Each fellowship provides three years of support during a five-year fellowship period. For each of the three years of support, NSF provides a $34,000 stipend and $12,000 cost of education allowance to the University.

The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. It is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind. 

Congratulations to these outstanding members of the Division for receiving this honor.

2021 GRFP Fellows

Jazmine Jefferson
Jazmine Jefferson

Jazmine Jefferson is a second year PhD student in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. She and fellow student David Zegeye, working with Professor Craig Hogan, will continue research that considers a holographic quantum model of perturbations during the inflationary period of the universe. They hope to utilize 3-D large-scale structure survey data to find signatures of primordial perturbations.

“We’re very excited by this award to Jazmine,” said Professor Craig Hogan. “It will empower her to explore some brand new ideas for testing symmetries of quantum perturbations predicted to emerge from the earliest stages of the universe, which now shape the large-scale galaxy distribution.

Antares Chen is a first year PhD student in the Department of Computer Science. He is in the research group of Assistant Professor Lorenzo Orecchia. The fellowship funding will support the study of semidefinite programming (SDP) based algorithms that provide approaches to ubiquitous machine learning tasks, but often wind up having prohibitive time and memory costs in practice. Chen said he is interested in developing provably efficient  SDP-based algorithms, especially for problems in graph partitioning.

Antares Chen
Antares Chen

“Antares is extremely passionate and intellectually curious about his chosen field of study,” said Assistant Professor Lorenzo Orrechia. “He is continuously seeking to expand his knowledge of the latest advances and enthusiastically involving and supporting other students around him in his journey of discovery. His research plan ties together a number of very timely areas of research, including average-case complexity, non-convex optimization, and large-scale algorithm design that solves optimization problems over networks with billions or trillions of connections in very efficient ways.”

Orecchia, who joined the PSD in 2019, added, “I have been truly impressed by the PhD students in the CS Department. Antares’s award is a testament to the strength of our PhD program in Computer Science.”

Melissa Adrian is a first year PhD student in the Department of Statistics who is interested in applications of statistics to the environmental sciences, particularly high-dimensional deterministic climate modeling. The fellowship funding will support the development of statistical methods for high-dimensional deterministic state-of-the-art climate models. The research will address the computational limitations of current methods by incorporating deep neural networks that provide a computationally cheap approximation to the climate model results and utilize historical climate data. 

Melissa Adrian
Melissa Adrian

“Melissa has developed a compelling research plan at the intersection of statistics, computer science, and applied mathematics,” Professor Rebecca Willet said. “She will be leveraging physical models together with rich datasets to better understand climate systems with statistical guarantees. This work is an exciting example of AI+Science research being conducted at the University of Chicago.”

Lauren Weiss is a first year graduate student in the Department of Physics. She is in the research group of Professor Cheng Chin. The fellowship funding will support quantum simulations with ultracold atoms. The Chin group is currently building a Quantum Matter Synthesizer (QMS), a rearrangeable array of atoms that uses lasers and magnetic fields to cool, trap and precisely control ultracold atoms, creating novel quantum matter at the single atom level. Two future experiments will include quantum simulation of ENAQT, a biological quantum transport theory, and creation and detection of novel quantum phases. 

Lauren Weiss

"We highly value a young talent like Miss Lauren Weiss to take on the challenge to explore the quantum world by literally building it atom by atom," Professor Cheng Chin said.

The following UChicago College students also received fellowships:

  • Mark Schachner, Mathematical Sciences, Topology
  • Thomas Propson, Physics and Astronomy, Quantum Information Science
  • Lisa Lin, Physics and Astronomy, Condensed Matter Physics
  • Lily Liu, Mathematical Sciences, Applied Mathematics
  • Vennela Mannava, Chemistry, Chemical Catalysis
  • Darcy Newmark, Physics and Astronomy, Particle Physics
  • Spencer Dembner, Mathematical Sciences, Algebra, Number Theory, and Combinatorics
  • Sydney Jenkins, Physics and Astronomy, Artificial Intelligence

For more information on the award, visit the NSF GRFP page.

Related News

Awards, Students