SMU students earn prestigious fellowships,
academic awards, teaching opportunities

Five SMU students have been honored with significant national awards.


DALLAS (SMU) – Five SMU students have been honored with significant national awards from the Fulbright Program, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program and the National Science Foundation.


Jewel Lipps
Jewel Lipps

A College Station, Texas, sophomore majoring in environmental science and chemistry, Jewel Lipps has been awarded a grant through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. The grant will allow her to work and study this summer with nine other undergraduate students in a hands-on, field-oriented research program centered on forest lakes in the Kittatinny Mountains of northwest New Jersey.

The REU participants will be housed in cabins at the New Jersey School of Conservation, which is located within 30,000 acres of mature forest, mountain ridges and freshwater streams and lakes. Working with faculty mentors, Lipps will gain scientific research experience in hydrology, erosion and sedimentation, environmental chemistry, and ecology. Lipps and other participants receive a stipend of $4,000, with lodging and meals provided. The REU program also will cover travel expenses for participants to present studies at professional conferences.

Lipps’ SMU Dedman College research mentors, John Ubelaker, professor of biological sciences, and Bonnie Jacobs, associate professor of paleobotany, both wrote letters of recommendation for Lipps. “Jewel is a jewel of a student with a strong passion for field studies,” said Ubelaker.

“She has really loved her experiences at Taos, which have confirmed her love of ecology - especially plant ecology,” Jacobs said. “This summer the REU will give her a chance to broaden that outdoor, real-world ecological research at a beautiful area in New Jersey.”

Lipps says the REU experience will support her goals to go to graduate school and work on ecological engineering projects. “I will learn firsthand about conservation and human impact on the environment,” Lipps said. “I want to find ways for people to harmoniously coexist with the natural environment, for the benefit of both! This summer will be a great start to that goal.”


Matthew Nicola Rispoli
Matthew Rispoli

SMU graduate student Matthew Nicola Rispoli, a native of Brownsville, Texas, has received a fellowship from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Rispoli will earn his M.S. in electrical engineering from SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering in August. He is a 2012 graduate of SMU with degrees in physics, electrical engineering and math.

Rispoli is being recognized for his physics research on ATLAS data derived from the search for supersymetric Higgs bosons at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, as well as for his electrical engineering research with antenna simulations for radio telescopes. He credits support from his SMU mentors, professors Stephen Sekula, Nathan Huntoon and Jodi Cooley.

“Matthew is creative and thoughtful, constructive and critical, never shies from a challenge, and is always engaged,” Sekula said. “In my time working with him, he was constantly mistaken for being a Ph.D. physics graduate student because of his level of commitment to learning and helping to generate new knowledge. I am very proud that he has been honored for his potential in physics, and I look forward to the day when he is a leader in our field.”

The NSF fellowship provides a three-year stipend, tuition assistance and travel money for collaboration and visiting research assistantships for students working toward research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Rispoli will apply award funding to his pursuit of a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics at Harvard University this fall.

“While my academic and professional pursuits are very technical, I believe that they entail some of the keys to the world's future material success,” Rispoli said. “Nonetheless, technical and intellectual accomplishments are useless if they remain cloistered as esoteric facts for a specialized few. Without the appreciation of scientific endeavors and promotion of scientific literacy to the broader population, there is no real hope for true success.”


Eric Alt
Eric Alt
Janice Kim
Janice Kim

An SMU junior has been named a 2013 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, and a sophomore was awarded Honorable Mention in the national Goldwater Scholar competition. The competitive scholarship comprised 1,107 students nominated by colleges and universities nationwide.

Eric Alt, Goldwater Scholar, is majoring in chemistry and in mechanical engineering. He has worked in the chemistry research lab with chemistry professor Dieter Cremer’s Computational and Theoretical Chemistry Group. Alt’s nominating mentors were professors Cremer, Michael Lattman and David Son.

“Eric is an extremely talented chemistry student who, thanks to the Goldwater Scholarship, will investigate how to clean toxic heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead from industrial wastewater using organic tweezer molecules,” said Cremer.

Janice Kim, Goldwater Honorable Mention, is a biological sciences major. She has worked as a researcher in professor Robert Harrod’s molecular virology lab. Kim’s nominating mentors were professors Harrod, Larry Ruben and Roberto Vega.

“Janice is an exceptionally talented student and her research in my lab has helped advance our fundamental understanding of how certain viruses can cause human cancers,” said Harrod, SMU associate professor of biological sciences.

Alt plans to pursue a research career specializing in chemistry while

Kim plans to pursue a career in medical research. In the past 23 years, 28 SMU students have been named Goldwater Scholars or Honorable Mentions.

The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of mathematics, science and engineering students. The federally endowed scholarship program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.


Hanna Kim, who graduated from SMU in May with majors in political science and in marketing, has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Korea. She plans to use the interactive language techniques her mother used to help her learn Korean.

"My mom texted me only in Korean," Kim says.

An English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) places a Fulbright student in a classroom abroad to provide assistance to teachers of English to non-native English-speakers, help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for U.S. culture. Benefits for all student Fulbright awardees include round-trip transportation to the host country and funding to cover room, board, and incidental costs, based on the cost of living in the host country.

Kim will spend one year in Korea, then plans to return to the United States to study Native American law. A Prelaw Scholar at SMU, Kim's experiences at SMU have shaped her plans for the future. Tutoring children on an Indian Reservation on alternative spring break and independent study in Washington, D. C. developed her interest in Native American issues. Mentoring and a seminar course for Prelaw Scholars confirmed Kim's determination to study law.

Kim also brings personal experience to teaching her students the importance of breaking language barriers. Growing up in Alaska, Kim remembers being unable to communicate with family members when she visited them in Korea.

"I always had to have another family there to translate,” she said. “I know the barriers of limited language skills. I want to help my students break that barrier."