Graduate student Jennifer Williams, who is majoring in engineering, was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to conduct research in engineering, a career she decided to pursue when she was an elementary school student.
It was during a project in which her fourth-grade teacher challenged the class to construct bridges out of ordinary craft materials that Williams' passion for engineering was ignited.
"I was fascinated that we could take glue and Popsicle sticks and all come up with different designs. I went home and asked my mom what job would let me do that every day, and she said engineering," Williams says.
After graduating in the top 10 percent of her high school class, she enrolled in the engineering program at the University of Texas at Tyler; however, during her freshman year she was encouraged to tour UNT’s College of Engineering. She says she immediately fell in love with the campus and decided to transfer.
In May 2011, Williams completed her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, magna cum laude, with a minor in math. Then, after completing an internship with Engineering Minds of Tomorrow -- a program designed to introduce K-12 students to science, technology, mathematics and engineering -- she decided to return to UNT for a graduate degree.
Williams is the first student from the College of Engineering and the seventh UNT student overall to be named an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. The program is open to students pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive up to $30,000 annually for three years. They also receive international research and professional development opportunities.
Williams says she plans to continue her research with focus on environmental monitoring systems, sustainable design and STEM education. She is particularly interested in sustainable ranching and sustainable agriculture, and says she may use sensors to study the relationship between soil moisture, humidity and automatic irrigation. Her master's thesis committee includes Miguel Acevedo, a Regents Professor of electrical engineering who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Geography; Rudi Thompson, professor of biology; Shengli Fu, associate professor of electrical engineering, and Kamesh Namuduri, associate professor of electrical engineering.
After completing her master's degree in December 2013, Williams hopes to pursue a career that will allow her to meld her passion for the environment and her passion for fostering a love of engineering in others.
Alyssa Yancey with UNT News Service can be reached at Alyssa.Yancey@unt.edu.