New Fellows

Let us introduce you to our 2023 New Fellows!

Addison Portman

The University of Texas at Austin – Mechanical Engineering

I am currently working at Sandia National Laboratories designing secure systems and sensored composites. At UT I will be studying for an advanced Mechanical Engineering degree with a concentration in either manufacturing and design or thermal fluids. I will be taking multiple combustion and energy classes with the goal of going into energetics research and projects at Sandia.

Most of my hobbies involve being outdoors and doing something active, such as hiking, skiing, and biking. As a kid my bike was the first mechanical system I ever got to work on, and clearly it stuck. Now I am on my schools Formula SAE team and spend most of my time building, repairing, and racing cars.

Ailon Haileyesus

The Johns Hopkins University – Biomedical/Mechanical Engineering

In my doctorate research, I am interested in the intersection of novel smart biomaterials and advanced additive manufacturing (AM) methods to develop innovative products for spinal/orthopedic applications. Due to limited material selections and a narrow understanding of fabrication methods with diverse materials, there is much potential to advance the portfolio of medical products among other industries. For instance, stimuli-responsive biomaterials that can react to certain mechanical loads could be 3D printed and would benefit patient-specific treatments. I am excited to investigate more around this topic and evaluate the effects of various parameters within AM techniques while confronting the complexities involved in material, process, and design decisions.

Outside of work and academics, I enjoy playing tennis, exploring diverse cultures and cuisines globally, playing the guitar alongside worship songs in different languages, and serving on the children’s ministry at my local church and outreaches in my community. As a first-generation Ethiopian American, I am passionate about empowering students to reach their potential and help promote the growth of engineering talent to support the advancement of healthcare and innovation worldwide.

Alissa Tsai

The University of Michigan – Mechanical Engineering department

My research aims to explore and identify obstacles preventing effective high-value recycling of aluminum and sheet metal into wrought alloys. As aluminum auto body sheet (ABS) is increasingly used in the production of vehicles, incorporating more end-of-life (EOL) recycled content in auto body sheets will allow car makers to reduce material costs and energy burden. The current recycling system results in significant quantities of contaminated EOL metal being exported, downcycled to castings, or recycled as rebar. To increase recycling of aluminum and sheet metal, shortcomings in this system must be recognized and analyzed.

As a woman in STEM, I am a firm believer that diversity and its supporting programs like GFSD enable us to communicate our stories and knowledge with one another, allowing us to gain a greater understanding of the problems and inequities in the world. I constantly strive to inspire the underrepresented in STEM. Outside of research, I enjoy traveling, hiking, and golfing.

Andrew Couch

Stanford University – PhD in Management Science and Engineering

I am interested in leveraging statistical methodologies complimented by organizational principles in order to help everyday individuals and organizations navigate the complex world of the modern era.  In my own moral pursuit to leverage humanity’s body of knowledge for the greatest good, I find that research offers a remarkably unique avenue for expanding, adapting, and applying knowledge in a manner that directly confers value onto a greater population.  Stemming from this, my passion for characterizing the modern complex world leads to my pursuits in science and engineering, particularly in statistical modeling, decision analysis, and how these methodologies strategically support organizations.  I am excited to apply technical and managerial tools to support society in my research.

My interest in science and engineering emerges from a motivation to understand the dynamics of the organizational world in an analytical manner.  Likewise, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve others through volunteer contributions in organizations such as Tau Beta Pi and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE).  In my free time, I enjoy activities such as playing board games, tennis, and following sports.

Andrew Erikson

Carnegie-Mellon University – MS Software Engineering

While I am not decided on my field of research, two areas I am interested in learning about are Cloud Computing and Machine Learning. I am interested in learning about Cloud Computing because it is an area of computer and software engineering which I do not fully understand and find fascinating. Machine Learning is another area I am interested in because of its applications in AI. 

I am a new graduate with a B.S. in Computer Engineering and am now pursuing a M.S. in Software Engineering. I am passionate about applying my knowledge and skills for the advancement of technology.

Aubrey Simonson

Northeastern University, CAMD

I study virtual reality from a human-computer interaction perspective. I’m interested in telepresence, and how aspects of avatar design contribute to presence, embodiment, and copresence in virtual environments. My work is inspired by “Beyond Being There”, a paper which, in 1992, proposed the idea that telecommunication which aims to accurately represent face to face communication will always be a worse version of face to face communication. It challenges designers to use the unique affordances of the medium to create interactions which are not possible in face to face communication.

My interest in avatar design is deeply related to my identity as a transgender man. When I’m not in a headset, I’m frequently rock climbing or hiking.

Christopher Roper

Georgia Institute of Technology – Department of Physics

Plasma waves, arising from the collective motion of charged particles interacting with electric and magnetic fields, play a crucial role in space plasmas such as the Earth’s magnetosphere and the heliosphere. They serve as a significant agent for particle transport, scattering, and energization. In the past few years, new advances in space technology, diagnostics, and accelerator technologies have enabled a paradigm shift for a new generation of active experiments integrating electron beams in space. This shift in technology opens an opportunity to expand knowledge of wave and wave-particle interactions, which play a critical role in some of the most important dynamics in space,  astrophysical plasmas, and nuclear deterrence. My research will focus on developing a new, deep, and quantitative understanding of wave generation, beam propagation, and beam-plasma interactions using a space-based electron accelerator experiment.

Hobby-wise, I enjoy a variety of activities such as basketball, hiking, and reading. Outside of hobbies, a considerable amount of my time is devoted to teaching and mentoring my peers from high school through graduate school education. I often volunteer my time to tutor students in need within my local community. My time volunteering in STEM opened a doorway to connecting diversity and grand scientific & engineering challenges. As the world faces ongoing technical challenges, it is imperative that the workforce can reach different backgrounds. To handle diverse challenges, one must be diverse in thought, thus a compelling motivator for the next generation to equip STEM as one of the tools for success.  

Dan Twili

Columbia University – Department of Statistics

I’m broadly interested in machine learning theory and causal inference. My previous research focused on machine learning fairness in the context of linear regression: given a data set with different groups (e.g. race or gender), how can we determine the best-fit line that’s also the fairest? It turns out this problem has an explicit solution, and it’s easy to use in practice!

In my free time, I like to hike, rock climb, and play board games. I enjoy any activity that lets me explore and learn new things, and that’s why I’m excited to pursue my PhD in statistics!

Francis Bui

Texas A&M University – Masters of Computer Science

I am Francis MinhThien Bui from Albuquerque, New Mexico and I will be pursuing a Masters of Computer Science at Texas A&M University starting this next fall. My areas of interest include software and software engineering, AI/machine learning, and cyber security. I currently work at Sandia National Laboratories where my time has been spent doing what I love and serving my nation the best I can. I enjoy playing tennis to relax and refresh my mind. I also do a lot of volunteer work in my community as a part of VEYM. Science and engineering has always been a part of my life. I enjoy the process of problem-solving and learning new skills. So, I would like to express my gratitude for this opportunity to continue pursuing both my education and my dreams.

Grace Vincent

North Carolina State University, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative

My current research uses hyperspectral imaging for early disease severity scoring in field corn crops, utilizing computer vision and artificial intelligence techniques. This analysis has the potential to mitigate the progression of diseases to dead crops. Furthermore, my interests in computer vision and artificial intelligence for agriculture and earth science highlight the potential of this research to improve precision agriculture practices and address the challenges of a changing planet.

Throughout my academic career, I have had an affinity for problem-solving and exploring connections between mathematics and real-world applications, which has led me to discover the promises of predictive analytics in engineering. Despite my current focus being on pursuing my doctoral degree and completing several different research projects, I am an incoming Women in Electrical and Computer Engineering Grad rep at my university. I hope this role allows me to further promote inclusivity and mentorship in the club, as these are essential for fostering creativity and innovation

Hanna Komlos

Rutgers University, Computer Science

My research is in data structures, and I am particularly interested in the ways that randomization and history independence can be used to obtain new upper bounds. Some particular problems/topics I work on include list labeling, graph sketching, memory allocation, and external memory data structures. 

 I have always been drawn to mathematical pursuits, and have found my current study in theoretical computer science to be the ideal combination of abstract thinking and real-world applications. In my spare time, I enjoy travel, hiking, cooking, knitting, live music, and crossword puzzles.

Kassidy Shedd

Northwestern University, Master of Science in Robotics

I am interested in using robotics to enhance the quality of care in the medical field. My focus is on creating robots that aid in the rehabilitation process for individuals recovering from illness or surgery. I also have an interest in creating companion robots that can aid in everyday tasks, for use by the elderly or those with a mental illness.

 I like to spend my free time outdoors, either gardening or just lying in the sun. I enjoy organizing and participating in STEM outreach activities. I like engineering because it allows me to solve problems and design solutions for real-world problems. Diversity in STEM is important because it allows people from all different backgrounds to come together with combined knowledge, to create a solution to a problem.

Kyle Johnson

University of Washington Seattle, Paul G. Allen School for Computer Science & Engineering

To create autonomous robotic platforms for swarms of insect-scale devices that can crawl, roll, walk, jump, glide, or fly, I research novel solutions to the size, weight, power, sensing, and communication limitations of commercially available technologies. I focus on designing and building robots with onboard power, onboard sensing, and onboard control, culminating in truly autonomous systems. An array of millimeter-scale solar cells and an energy harvesting circuit can power a programmable, off-the-shelf microcontroller, allowing for the implementation of numerous sensors for a multitude of computing applications. Leveraging the bistability of leaf-out origami, I have utilized an electromagnetic actuator to achieve crawling, jumping, and gliding locomotion. A combination of millimeter-scale motors and piezoelectric bimorphs can allow for rolling, walking, and flying. Low power communication can be achieved through the use of backscatter on devices weighing 100 milligrams or less, and Bluetooth Low Energy mesh networks on devices weighing less than 1 gram. My vision is for hundreds to thousands of our autonomous robotic systems to be dispersed in currently difficult-to-reach areas like farms, forests, factories, or icecaps, broadening the applications of environmental monitoring systems.

I am a co-founder of the outreach nonprofit AVELA- A Vision for Engineering Literacy & Access, as well as the co-founder of the UW’s Black Graduate Student Association. I enjoy being a part of outreach efforts, and I aspire to help decrease the educational opportunity gaps currently present in the education system. To balance out the engineering side of my brain, I also write, longboard, play basketball, and enjoy hitting the gym.

Nikki Van Handel

Georgia Institute of Technology, – Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Through the GFSD, I’ll be working with Dr. Yan Lu at NIST on improving the results of additive manufacturing through the use of data analytics and machine learning. I intend to continue this work into my PhD in Computational Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I will be working with my advisors, Dr. Chris Saldaña and Dr. Tom Kurfess, to develop advanced manufacturing techniques. 

My favorite activities are cooking, rock climbing, and spending time with my cat, Luna.

Samuel Myren

 Virginia Tech University – Statistics Department

Artificial intelligence (AI) can drastically progress nuclear nonproliferation goals, but it can provide misleading, overly confident predictions. I am excited to bridge the gap between the power of AI and its over-confident, wrong predictions in order to detect and monitor nuclear activity throughout the world. To this end, I am researching uncertainty quantification and benchmarking metrics for unfathomably large foundation models that perform nonproliferation tasks using seismological data. My research will merge the perspectives of the Virginia Tech Statistics Department and Los Alamos National Laboratory to help real nuclear nonproliferation analysts make impactful decisions.

As a philosophically curious and nature-loving person, I enjoy exploring the world through intellectual studies and physical experiences. STEM is incredible because I get to rigorously explore nature as a career, thereby providing me the resources to safely experience the physical world. So, when I am not researching, I turn to hobbies such as trail-running, mountain biking, jumping into local swimming holes, playing guitar, and travel (photo shot in Porto, Portugal).

Serena Birnbaum

The University of Massachusetts – Polymer Science and Engineering

I will be looking into the intersection between 2D metamaterials and adhesion between the metamaterial surface layers on impact. I am hoping to combine the research that I am currently doing at the University of Massachusetts on the adhesive behavior of hydrogels with the facilities and knowledge that will be available to me at NIST. Through this opportunity, I hope to use the expertise in metamaterial structures and unique instrumentation used for characterization present at NIST to characterize the adhesive behavior of a complex system at small timescales.

I am currently a full time graduate student, and in my free time I love to hike, and I play volleyball and ultimate frisbee. I also love to participate in outreach events for anybody who is interested in getting into STEM through education. My favorite type of outreach is setting up real experiments that people can take active part in and try out being a scientist for a day.

Simon Kato

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Computer Science

 I am interested in artificial intelligence, particularly the application of artificial intelligence to robotics. I am currently working on decision-making under an uncertainty project related to active sensing. At a high level, active sensing is the problem of maximizing information, or reducing uncertainty, by selecting a sampling location.

I enjoy rock climbing, cooking,  gardening, and playing games with friends. I am also engaged with the broadening participation in computing efforts at the University of Illinois.

Yasaman Kaz

Colorado School of Mines – Material Science

The goal of my project is to develop a solvent resistant microwave microfluidic device to measure the dielectric spectra of more aggressive solvents. The device currently used by NIST is not chemically robust and having a solvent resistant device will allow us to measure systems that have not been measured before.

I am a foodie and one of my hobbies is to try new food/bakery spots in the city. I like STEM because it challenges me to think outside of the box. I love analysis and finding trends as well. Diversity allows us to put our biases aside and have difficult conversations, listen, and learn about one another. Additionally having different perspectives and backgrounds provide a more wholesome work environment.