Students awarded NSF GRFP grant

The four recipients of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GFRP) are conducting research ranging in disciplines from biology to chemistry to physics.

“The GFRP awards help students by giving them full tuition and stipend so they can creatively advance research ideas of their own, and hit the ground running at their PhD institution,” Dr. Evelyn Gaiser said.

Each awardee received $46,000 to further their studies.

Learn more about the recipients:


Marcela Jaramillo

Marcela Jaramillo 
PI: Dr. Kevin O’Shea

Before coming to FIU, Jaramillo met with faculty from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry during her visitation day. In particular, she spoke with Dr. O’Shea about his research on the roles of reactive oxygen species in environmental processes and human disease.

“I knew his interest and group were a perfect match for me,” Jaramillo said.

Water contamination is one of the major global problems facing the human race. Jaramillo investigates the solar light-mediated degradation of natural toxins and pollutants as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional water purification strategies.

“The fundamental understanding afforded through my research project is critical to the development of inexpensive, simple and environmentally friendly alternatives for water purification globally, whether for large scale treatment of in small isolated villages,” Jaramillo said.


Tommy Shannon

Tommy Shannon 
PI: Dr. Evelyn Gaiser

The people, resources and opportunities available at FIU were important factors that drove Tommy Shannon’s decision to come to the university.

Although he recently began at FIU and still has two years until he becomes a doctoral candidate, Shannon is already looking to understand algal ecology and its relationship with the environment.

“Because it sits at the base of the food chain, algal productivity and composition can dictate the availability of resources available to everything else. When those algal communities are shifted due to things like heat or sea-level rise, the rest of the ecosystem changes in response,” Shannon said.

Ultimately, understanding the root causes and directions of these changes can help researchers better manage the world’s ecosystems.


Ben Archibeque

Benjamin Archibeque
PI: Dr. Geoff Potvin

Inspired by the work of Dr. Geoff Potvin and Dr. Zahara Hazari, Benjamin Archibeque came to Florida International University to pursue a PhD in physics. His project looks to fix the unfairness/inequity in classroom discussions.

“I hope that by understanding and making people aware of the (possibly subtle) actions they do that make people feel isolated or unheard, these same people will try to be more conscious about their impact on the world,” Archibeque said.


Savannah LaBua 
PI: Dr. Kevin Boswell

In 2015, LaBua participated in the National Student Exchange program. During her time in the program, she placed roots in Miami through her work and colleagues, which ultimately led her to choose FIU for her graduate program.

“The student [LaBua] will conduct a genomic analysis of Pacific herring from Lynn Canal, Alaska to examine population structure to determine affinities between overwintering and spawning aggregations. Additionally, the student will use the genotype dataset to characterize the variability and patterns of differentiation across and within subsets of the sampled aggregations,” said principle investigator, Dr. Boswell.

LaBua hopes to help fellow researchers and tribal members gain an in-depth knowledge of the species.


Monica Castillo received an honorable mention for her work in geosciences.

Candice Allouch contributed to this article.