Nine National Science Foundation Fellowships

The following CUNY graduates have won grants from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship program. They are listed with their undergraduate college, current institution (if alumni) and field of study:

  • Monica Vanessa Avilez, Lehman College: Biological Anthropology
  • Ioannis Eugenis, Brooklyn College and Stanford University: Bioengineering
  • Stanley Ko, City College and Rutgers University: Marine Geology and Geophysics
  • Emily Lau, Hunter College: Organismal Biology
  • Tamar Lichter, Macaulay Honors College at Queens College and Rutgers University: Mathematical Sciences
  • Lizhi Liu, City College and Columbia University: Systems and Molecular Biology
  • Roland Maio, City College: Machine Learning
  • Tannuja Devi Rozario, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Sociology
  • Mary Regis Shanley, Northeastern University and CUNY Graduate Center:Neurosciences

Researching the Puzzle Of How Humans Came to Walk Upright

Monica Avilez (Lehman College, 2017) will use her National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship worth up to $138,000 to explore how humans and their ancestors came to walk upright. She follows in the footsteps of her Lehman mentor, William Harcourt-Smith, an expert in the evolution of the foot, as she pursues a doctorate in biological anthropology at New York University. Together, the NSF grant and her NYU MacCracken Fellowship will fund seven years of study.

She is particularly curious about the knee, whose design changed significantly from ancient apes to Lucy (the famous 3.2 million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis) to modern Homo sapiens. “My idea is to use virtual techniques to see how the forces of walking apply to those knee joints, but I’ll also look at other methods,” she says.

Avilez, who emigrated from Ecuador at age 5, came to Lehman for her second bachelor’s degree, in anthropology, after earning her first in biology at City College in 2006. She tried acting, which she had done as a child, then banking. A novel about forensic anthropology caught her attention, bringing her to Lehman. Hearing Harcourt-Smith speak, “I wanted to know more about how we became human.”

Archeology professor Cameron McNeil took her on a dig in Honduras, seeking to explain ancient Maya cultural development. At Kenya’s Koobi Fora Field School, she shared the excitement over the discovery of a Paranthropus fossil.
“There are so many opportunities at Lehman, and there’s so much to know. Even our own genus had different modes of locomotion during its evolution.”

Monica Avilez

Monica Avilez
Lehman College
National Science Foundation Fellowship

Reproductive Rights And the Journey to the U.S. Of Indo-Caribbean Women

Tannuja Devi Rozario (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 2016) has won a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship worth up to $138,000 to explore why many Indo-Caribbean women make round trips to New York City to obtain reproductive and other health care services. She is a second-year doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“Reproductive rights are limited in the United States and the political climate here is volatile, so why are Indo-Caribbean women traveling here to access them?” asks Rozario, who moved to Queens from Guyana at 7. “What does that say about New York City and the countries where they come from?”

In early interviews, health-care seekers from Guyana have told her they trust neither physicians nor hospitals at home. They want to connect with family and friends here and to give birth in the United States so their children will be citizens with more options. With her NSF grant, Rozario intends to widen her ethnographic research to include Afro-Caribbean women health-care travelers.

At John Jay, Rozario was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, part of a U.S. Department of Education program that prepares undergraduates from underrepresented groups for doctoral studies and academia through research and other scholarly activities. “I’m still in touch with my mentors at John Jay, Jean Carmalt in law and society, Crystal Jackson in sociology and Ernest Lee in the Ronald McNair program. They gave me the courage to apply for the NSF fellowship.” Indeed, it’s rare for a sociology student to win one.

Tannuja Devi Rozario

Tannuja Devi Rozario
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
National Science Foundation Fellowship