Moreno, nine others, granted NSF fellowships

Moreno, nine others, granted NSF fellowships

Ivan Moreno is one of 10 UNL students who have recently received National Science Foundation Fellowships. Moreno is using his award to further his graduate study into solar energy.
Courtesy photo
Ivan Moreno is one of 10 UNL students who have recently received National Science Foundation Fellowships. Moreno is using his award to further his graduate study into solar energy.

Ivan Moreno is packing his bags and heading to sunny California. It makes sense for the UNL alumnus, since he’s starting graduate research on solar energy.

Moreno will begin working under Nathan Lewis, professor of chemistry at California Institute of Technology, this summer, thanks in part to a National Science Foundation Fellowship, which provides a stipend for three years and several unique opportunities.

Moreno, who graduated in May with a degree in both chemistry and physics, has always wanted to be a scientist, and getting his undergraduate degree at UNL was an important step toward that goal, especially with the assistance he received as a UNL McNair Scholar. The McNair Program is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and prepares selected undergraduates for graduate study by providing opportunities to define goals, engage in research and develop the skills critical to success at the doctoral level. The program serves students who are first generation with financial need and students who are underrepresented in graduate populations.

“The McNair Program made a huge difference,” Moreno said. “Everyone has the ingredients to make a cake in their place, but not everybody knows how. The McNair Program is the recipe to my college experience. It helped me put together my research, outreach activities and other things that made me a good candidate for graduate school.”

While an undergraduate here, Moreno completed UCARE research on cerium oxide nanorods with Barry Cheung, associate professor of chemistry, and produced research for the McNair program under Martin Centurion, assistant professor of physics and astronomy.

When deciding which direction to take his research in the future, Moreno wanted to combine his physics and chemistry knowledge into a field that could make an impact.

“I want to do something about global warming and solar energy fits with my expertise,” he said. “I think I can really make a difference there.”

Thanks to his work at UNL and the NSF Fellowship, Moreno gained acceptance to the CalTech graduate program, his first choice.

Ten UNL students have been recently named NSF fellows. Along with Moreno, the NSF fellows are: Elias Bloom of Omaha, ecology; Bethany Drain of Elkhorn, aeronautical and aerospace engineering; Walter Bircher of Omaha, mechanical engineering; Daniel Geschwender of Omaha, computer science; Jeffrey Lopez of North Platte, chemical engineering; Olivia Scheideler of Lincoln, bioengineering; Piotr Robert Slawinksi of Lincoln, engineering; Ashley Thelen of Mitchell, S.D., biochemistry; and Aubrey Thompson of Lincoln, applied mathematics.

According to the NSF website, the fellowship pays a stipend annually, as well as a cost-of-education allowance to the institution the student chooses to attend. More than 14,000 applications were received for the 2014 competition, but only 2,000 fellowships were awarded.