NSF rewards two clean-energy researchers with five-year fellowships

Written by
Scott Lyon
April 12, 2022

Sustainability research has earned two CBE students, senior Grace Wei and second-year graduate student Cole Hullfish, graduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation. Each fellowship comes with five years of professional development support and three years of funding, including an annual $34,000 stipend and $12,000 cost of education allowance.

Wei, from Johns Creek, Ga., will study electronic materials at the University of California-Berkeley, hoping to contribute to society’s transition to renewable energy. Her senior thesis looked at ion transport in materials known as perovskites, a promising platform for advanced solar cells. She is co-advised by Lynn Loo, the Theodora D. '78 and William H. Walton III '74 Professor in Engineering and former director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; and Michael Webb, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering.

Hullfish, from Nashville, Tenn., works on making chemicals derived from natural gas more sustainable through energy-efficient catalysis. He came to Princeton seeking research opportunities that would have a direct impact on climate change. By improving catalysis, Hullfish and his adviser Michele Sarazen, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, hope to reduce carbon emissions associated with natural gas across a range of applications. While natural gas is commonly known as a residential heating fuel, it is also widely used in energy-intensive industrial processes and commonly burned as a waste product during crude-oil extraction. Hullfish previously earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program issued its first awards in 1952 and has since funded more than 60,000 graduate student researchers, including 42 future-laureates of the Nobel Prize. It is the oldest fellowship of its kind in the United States. This year, the program offered around 2,200 fellowships to students from nearly 300 colleges and universities.