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TCNJ Physics Senior Awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Nicholas Tusay, a senior Physics major at TCNJ, has been awarded a highly competitive Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Nick will graduate from TCNJ in May 2020 and then attend graduate school at Pennsylvania State University, where he will pursue a Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program supports the graduate study of U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents attaining research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and in STEM education at institutions located in the United States.

The 2020 NSF Fellowship selection was intensely competitive. Approximately 2,000 individuals were selected for this national award from a pool of over 13,000 applicants. Graduate Research Fellowship awardees are selected through the NSF’s peer review process in which applications are reviewed by distinguished science faculty members from colleges and universities throughout the country.

While an undergraduate at TCNJ Nick Tusay gained significant research experience in a variety of physics fields. His introduction to research came in the summer after his first year. Nick was selected to participate in TCNJ’s residential Mentored Undergraduate Summer Experience (MUSE) program, where he worked on a team of three students – mentored by Dr. Nate Magee – studying ice crystal formation and morphology in cirrus clouds. 

Knowing that his true passion was in astrophysics, in the Fall of 2018 Nick began working with Dr. Paul Wiita and another team of students to study relativistic jets of active galactic nuclei in radio galaxies. During the next summer (2019), Nick was accepted to an NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Notre Dame, where he worked on adaptive optics instrumentation for ground-based telescopes and building a better wave front sensor.

During his senior year at TCNJ, beginning in Fall 2019, Nick has been conducting research with Dr. Lauranne Lanz, studying a transitioning galaxy and how its AGN-driven outflow affects its transition as well as what role the hot gas component of the outflow plays.  Nick recently presented this research at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) conference in Honolulu, Hawaii in January 2020.


TCNJ Alumni also Receive Honorable Mention Awards

In addition to the Nick Tusay, four TCNJ School of Science alumni received honorable mention awards from NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program: 

  • Mona Elsayed, TCNJ Biology and Psychology double major, TCNJ faculty mentor: Dr. Dennis Shevlin. Graduate School: Rutgers University.
  • Rebecca Goncalves, TCNJ Chemistry major, TCNJ faculty mentor: Dr. Joseph Baker. Graduate School: Northwestern University
  • Adriana Mendizabal, TCNJ Biology major, TCNJ faculty mentor: Dr. Tracy Kress. Graduate School: University of California, Berkeley.
  • Allison Smith, TCNJ Chemistry major, TCNJ faculty mentor: Dr. Abby O’Connor. Graduate School: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


About the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The Graduate Research Fellowship Program is a critical program in NSF’s overall strategy to develop a globally engaged workforce necessary to ensure the nation’s leadership in advancing science & engineering research and innovation. Former NSF fellows have made transformative breakthroughs in science & engineering, become leaders in their chosen careers, and been honored as Nobel laureates.

The Graduate Research Fellowship Program provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution). That support is for graduate study that leads to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in science & engineering.


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