Andrea Yocom’s interest in the sciences crystalized at a summer engineering camp in her native state of Colorado. After earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics, she was drawn to the University of Oregon by the faculty members she met and the stellar materials research facilities she saw during a visit to the Center for Advanced Materials Characterization in Oregon known as CAMCOR, the UO’s high-tech extension service.
“I saw more equipment than smaller universities had and more equipment in one place than larger universities had,” Yocom recalls. “I was definitely impressed.”
Now a graduate student in physics, Yocom is focused on optics and materials science. She works with a research group developing more absorbent polymer solar cells. And as the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, she receives $30,000 annually to achieve her research goals.
There are thirteen NSF graduate fellows at the UO—six of them newly chosen in 2012—whose burgeoning research careers are being generously supported by the NSF. Their interests range from microbes to bush monkey flowers, and like Yocom, many of them have wanted to be scientists for as long as they can remember. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s degrees or doctorates.
Yocom credits her mentor and advisor, Miriam Deutsch, an associate professor of physics, with providing her the guidance and support she needed to earn an NSF fellowship.
NSF fellows have gone on to earn Nobel Prizes and reach other notable heights. Past fellows include U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin, and Steven Levitt, coauthor of the book Freakonomics (2005).