Quercus Hamlin Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Grant

  • Mar 29, 2017

Quercus Hamlin, undergraduate senior, has just received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) grant. The award provides three years of support for graduate education over a five year period to students who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM or STEM education. The purpose of the award is to ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States by encouraging women, members of underrepresented minority groups, persons with disabilities, veterans, and undergraduate seniors to apply.  

For Hamlin, this is an exciting achievement on several fronts. According to his mentor, Anthony Kendall, Research Scientist in the MSU Hydrolab, the success rate for landing one of these grants is about 8%.  Hamlin’s proposal was chosen this year from over 13,000 applicants nation-wide. Even more impressive, it was one of 15 awarded at Michigan State University and the only one in Geosciences.

While still a senior in high school, Hamlin worked on the PalEON Project with Dr. Jason McLachlan at the University of Notre Dame. He started by digitizing witness trees from maps in ArcGIS and later moved onto other forms of data collection and processing. After transferring to MSU, Hamlin was recommended to Hydrolab by PhD student and former PalEON lab manager, Jill Dines. According to Kendall, Hamlin seemed like a good fit for the Hydrolab. “He was very good at figuring out tools and he knew how to work with really large data sets. Plus he was good at writing and executed his research well. That made him highly competitive.”

This past fall, Kendall and fellow researcher Sherry Martin encouraged Hamlin to consider applying for the GRFP. In Kendall’s opinion, “He seemed like he was ready for graduate level research.” Martin commented that his skills with big data really set him apart. “He’s been able to take it and break it up into achievable parts and continue to move forward.” Though Hamlin was reluctant at first, Martin and Kendall’s encouragement built his confidence and spurred him on to apply.

His proposal for the GRFP is an expansion on his current work with a nutrient loading model for the entire Great Lakes basin. By expanding this model to a continental scale, it could be used as a management resource to help limit excess nutrients that are causing harmful algae blooms like those in Lake Erie. According to Sherry Martin, “The combination of creativity and ability to pick up this coding and programing really quickly and his ideas with where to take it, are going to help him answer whatever questions he’s interested in.

Hamlin recently committed to Syracuse University where he will use the GRFP to pursue an MS in Environmental Engineering Science.