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SUPER Grad is a new diversity fellowship program that awards competitive first‐year graduate funding to outstanding alumni of our summer undergraduate research programs. Alumni of the RiSE (Research in Science and Engineering) at Rutgers program and partner summer programs are automatically eligible for consideration if they are admitted by a Rutgers graduate program.
SUPER Grad supports Rutgers-New Brunswick's objectives to be a national leader in increasing the pool of qualified US science, technology, math & engineering (STEM) graduate students, fuel the pipeline to the STEM careers, and promote the diversity that will catalyze innovation in tomorrow’s workforce, By retaining the top summer talent, we promote a diverse and inclusive graduate population at Rutgers and help overcome the current constriction of the STEM pipeline at the undergraduate to graduate transition.
SUPER Grad builds on Rutgers’ strength, growth, and investment in STEM summer programs and leverages our success in garnering federal grants to support summer research for undergraduates from diverse backgrounds. Partnering summer programs, most of which operate under the RiSE umbrella, particularly encourage participation by populations that are under-represented in STEM and who may be the first in their families to attend a 4-year college.
The program is funded by the Chancellor's Office as an initiative of the New Brunswick Strategic Plan, with generous matches from the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, School of Arts & Sciences, School of Engineering, Graduate School-NB, and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
Scroll down to meet this year's SUPER Grad fellows.
Graduate Program: Physics and Astronomy
RiSE Scholar: Summer 2014 and participant in the National Science Foundation REU in Physics and Astonomy
I am from Yonkers, New York and received my B.S. in Astrophysics from Lehigh University. I chose Rutgers because I really liked the department. I had come to know the faculty well from my experience as an REU Scholar and felt confident that I would be able to find a good research advisor here. I plan to pursue my research in the field of astronomy. My first semester thus far has been academically challenging, but also very rewarding. I have had to think harder than ever before, and I have learned a lot from that. After my PhD, I look forward to using my expertise in a way I find most meaningful. Luckily for me, I know I will have acquired skills that can be diversely applied. When I am not busy with schoolwork and research, I enjoy traveling the world and experiencing culinary delights.
Graduate Program: Microbial Biology
RiSE Scholar: Summer 2013, and co-participant in the National Science Foundation REU, Biogeography of Biotransformations for Halogenated Organic Compounds: a Comparison of the Tropics, Temperate and sub-Arctic Environments
Growing up in New Jersey, I always knew Rutgers University and how strong it was in science. When I came to Rutgers as part of the RiSE program and a partnering REU, my outlook on science changed. After my RiSE experience I graduated from the Honors School at Monmouth University, NJ in May 2015 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Rutgers and the RiSE program made me want to pursue graduate studies, and I am glad I am able to pursue them here! I intend to conduct research in the field of environmental microbiology. So far, my first semester has been busy. In between lab work, classes, and readings, I relax by listening to music and playing my clarinet. My graduate program, Microbial Biology, promotes an intellectually stimulating environment through the Fermentation Seminar Series, so I have been exposed to diverse areas of microbiology. One learns science best by doing it in the laboratory, so after I earn my PhD, I would like to become a professor who involves students in research.
Graduate Program: Psychology
I am from the island of Jamaica and have been in the United States since I was eight years old. I am a nontraditional student, obtaining my Bachelor degree from the University of the District of Columbia at the age of 32. I chose Rutgers for graduate study because of the University’s commitment to diversity and research excellence and because of my mentor Dr. Gretchen Chapman. Through my work with Dr. Chapman during the summer RiSE program, I found her to be strong, kind, and the perfect person to guide and facilitate my matriculation through the Social Psychology PhD program. Our research interests align, and I am glad to be a member of her lab.
The RISE program enabled me to gain specific research skills and mentorship that I had not received anywhere else. By connecting me with Dr. Chapman, RiSE made me realized how committed I am to the research of decision making, behavior, and health. I would like everyone to try to be a part of this program because of its impact on a student’s future trajectory. My goals after my PhD are to do research on health and behavior, while mentoring and training the next generation of psychologists. I hope to be able to participate in or direct a program like RiSE.
As fun facts, I am a photographer, and I love to take pictures of people and street scenes.
Talia M. Planas-Fontánez
Graduate Program: Toxicology
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, a beautiful island surrounded by clear waters and biodiversity. I graduated from the University of Puerto Rico–Rio Piedras Campus with a B.S. in Chemistry in May 2015. During my junior and senior years, I was a National Institutes of Health MARC (Minority Access to Research Careers) research fellow and spent the summer at Rutgers as part of the RiSE program. RiSE gave me the opportunity to obtain experience and training in a research-intensive university and helped me improve the skills needed for graduate study. Today, I am a first year Rutgers graduate student in the Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology, interested in studying immune responses and toxicological effects on neural activity. Rutgers provides not only a first-class education, but also a great collaborative environment, which convinced me to select this institution to pursue my goal of becoming an interdisciplinary scientist. My first semester at Rutgers has been both challenging and rewarding. In particular, the Drug Development seminars have been crucial for my understanding of current research in the field. Different experts at Bristol Myers Squibb have visited and talked about their experiences, offering advice and further strengthening my interest to pursue a similar career. In my free time, I enjoy running, reading, traveling and discovering new and delicious dishes.