Senior receives prestigious fellowship

Zach Lee, senior electrical and computer engineering student, was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

The fellowship supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Masters and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions, according to the Graduate Research Fellowship Program’s website.

“It’s a fellowship that pays for graduate school to support young researchers as they’re getting started with their careers. The fellowship gives me the freedom to study whatever topic interests me without worrying about getting funding from a university,” Lee said.

Lee is one of 2,000 students in the nation offered the award. Close to 17,000 people applied, according to the fellowship website.

“It came as a complete surprise,” Lee said. “A lot of professors said that this was a long-shot. I didn’t really think it was a possibility. I thought, if it’s a door God wants to open, then that’s great. It has opened up doors to schools that I couldn’t afford otherwise.”

Receiving the fellowship is an outstanding accomplishment. Ted Song, assistant professor of engineering, said, “It’s a very rewarding experience to receive this. It’s a good experience for Zach and a good experience for JBU. Zach has this opportunity to make an impact. It’s an honor to have the opportunity.”

Fellows benefit from a 3-year annual stipend of $34,000, opportunities for international research and professional development and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose, according to the fellowship website.

Applicants are judged on two criteria: intellectual merit and broader impacts. “Broader impacts ask ‘are you interested in using your research to help the community?’” Lee said. “I’m interested in cyber-physical systems and particularly applications in smart grid and home automation. I’m interested in how we can use software to control the physical world and especially how to produce and use electricity.”

When he applied for the fellowship, Lee was required to propose a research project that he would be interested in studying. “The project that I proposed was studying how we can make electricity systems for communities in developing nations more robust. I proposed using intelligent software to make these power systems run autonomously,” Lee said.

Several University faculty members have been a part of Lee’s academic growth and have helped him with his application process.

“My role is to lay out opportunities for students,” Song said. “Zach is one of the people who has taken the opportunity and pursued it. Zach is not only a good student, but he has been contributing to the JBU community. He has been helping underclassmen understand engineering better and has just been a good example to underclassman, showing you can work hard and serve as a fellow student.”

Lee said that the education he has received at the University has been outstanding. “I’ve had strong relationships with professors here. They’re able to know me, what I’m interested in and what I’ve done. The engineering department is top-notch. JBU has given me the opportunities to go beyond and use engineering to help people.”