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Three students from UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) were recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship: Elizabeth Ankrah, Adam Birnbaum and Emani Dotch.

The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM disciplines across the U.S. Recipients receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000, as well as $12,000 paid directly to the university to cover tuition and fees. The GRFP has a history of selecting recipients who go on to achieve high levels of success, and the promising work of these ICS recipients shows great potential in positively impacting society.

LizAnkrahElizabeth Ankrah, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Informatics and a member of the Social & Technological Action Research (STAR) group, is addressing health inequities faced by those living with chronic illness. “To have my work recognized by the NSF is a great honor,” she says, adding that “community, commitment and consistency are the three pillars” supporting her life and work. “Being a Ghanaian-American, I was taught to always consider the impact of my work on the family and community, and along the way this transitioned into a passion for conducting research that reduces health inequalities.” She is currently working with patients in the childhood cancer survivor clinic at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. “My goal is to understand the social and informational needs and challenges of now-adolescent and young adult survivors of childhood cancer and their caregivers,” she says. “I’m interested in understanding people’s care journeys [and] how we can translate that into their care trajectories [and] organize and create programs and technologies for their care based on their lifestyle.”

AdamBirnbaumAdam Birnbaum is a second-year master’s student in the Department of Statistics who will start on his Ph.D. in the fall. He is focusing his research on developing flexible methods for modeling spatiotemporal data that make fewer assumptions but are still easy to use by practitioners. “This could, for example, be used to improve our understanding of health disparities among groups of people depending on where they live or work,” he explains. “With more and more data being gathered and more and more decisions driven by those data, I’m excited to help improve our ability to understand the world through statistical methods.” He was also greatly honored to receive the fellowship. “To me, it really signifies the quality of education and mentorship I’ve received in the Department of Statistics here at UCI.”

EmaniDotchEmani Dotch, who will start graduate school in the Department of Informatics this fall, is researching human-computer interaction and accessibility with an emphasis on design technologies for children with autism spectrum disorder. “To receive this fellowship is a huge honor,” she says. “It will provide additional help with my graduate school expenses [so] this is such a huge blessing.” Her plan is to stay in academia. “My future goal is to go into academia as a professor and start a nonprofit organization and camp for children with autism and other developmental disorders, empowering and encouraging neurodiversity in the STEM fields.”

— Shani Murray