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Julianne Sweeney ’16 Wins NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Julianne Sweeney

Julianne Sweeney ’16 has become the third Geneseo undergraduate in as many years to earn a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.

GENESEO, N.Y. – Julianne Sweeney '16 has won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship in the area of geosciences. Sweeney, a Geneseo native, graduated with a degree in geological sciences and then worked as a research technician for the Geneseo Department of Geological Sciences under the advisement of Nicholas Warner, assistant professor of geological sciences. She is currently employed at EagleView, an aerial imagery company.

Sweeney’s win marks the third year in a row that a SUNY Geneseo undergraduate has won this prestigious honor. She has been accepted into a master’s program at Syracuse University in Earth sciences under the advisement of Laura Lautz, professor and department chair.

At Syracuse, Sweeney will analyze the effects of certain stream management practices on a series of watersheds at a field site in Wyoming. She also will participate in the NSF-funded EMPOWER (Education Model Program on Water-Energy Research) traineeship, which equips graduate students with technical knowledge and professional skills in preparation for careers in water and energy research.

The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period -- $34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution. That support is for graduate study that leads to a research-based master's or doctoral degree in a STEM field.

Nicholas Sullivan '10, presently in a doctoral program at University of Wisconsin-Madison, was named Honorable Mention in the area of geosciences/paleoclimate. Honorable Mention designation in life sciences/ecology also went to Janelle Goeke '16, who graduated with a degree in biology and is now enrolled in a doctoral program in coastal ecology at Texas A&M University at Galveston.

The purpose of GRFP is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. The fellowships typically support outstanding graduate students who are pursuing STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The new awardees were selected from more than 12,000 applicants and come from all 50 U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. Honorable mention recognition went to 1,459 individuals.

NSF reviewers praised Sweeney’s “genuine interest in research, prior research achievements, including disseminating the results in conferences and in publications,” which “together with stellar recommendations, give confidence in a bright future in science and scholarship.” Those reviewers also noted her passion to increase gender equity in STEM fields, exceptionally strong academic record, presentations at national conferences, co-authorship on published papers, and a first-author paper in submission, all of which were “quite impressive for her career stage.”

Last year, Shayne O’Brien ’17, an applied mathematics/Spanish double major, won in the area of computer/IS/machine learning and is now enrolled as a doctoral program in the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The year before, Grant Kusick ’16, who majored in biology, became the first Geneseo undergraduate to ever win a Graduate Research Fellowship and is presently a doctoral student at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“My fascination with the interaction between landscape forms and processes, explored through my extensive undergraduate research at Geneseo and my diverse educational experiences, have compelled me to pursue a career in research and teaching,” Sweeney said. “A graduate degree, in addition to the opportunities provided by this fellowship, will equip me with the analytical skills and experience I need to investigate interactions between water, human activity, and the landscape.”

Fellows have opportunities for international research collaborations through the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) initiative and professional career development with federal internships provided through the Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP). GRFP also supports NSF's Career-Life Balance (CLB) initiative.

In the long term, Sweeney intends to become a professor and work toward improving female representation in the sciences.

“My experiences thus far have offered me an example of the dynamic and complementary roles an academic must fulfill – advancing science while guiding others to do the same,” she said. “Receiving funding from the NSF GRFP will provide a solid financial foundation, allowing me to focus on research, my dedication to providing opportunities for women in STEM, and desire to represent the NSF ideals of exploration, excellence, and diversity.”

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