Gabriela Shirkey ’13 (BS Scientific and Technical Communication) | 2019 NSF Graduate Fellowship Recipient

Gabriela Shirkey

I‘m really excited [about the National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship]. The key to NSF applications is stressing how your pursuit of science and contribution to the scientific community is going to have a broader impact, particularly those not involved in your immediate research. You write a personal statement on how you build community and demonstrate leadership, as well as a research proposal, three letters of recommendation, and your transcripts. Thanks to Tech, I had STEM outreach examples from the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers’ Noche de Ciencias and prior research experience as an undergraduate in the social sciences department. With the NSF fellowship, I get three years of full funding and opportunities to have internships, so I am thinking of connecting with the Department of Energy or Argonne National Laboratories to work on biofuel research.

I enrolled in the Straight-to-PhD program in Michigan State’s Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences in August 2017. Currently, I’m at the end of my second year and I’ll be done with most of my coursework before working full-force on my dissertation, “Integrating unknown socioeconomic processes into ecosystem carbon production.” 

I chose Michigan Tech because it’s kind of a family tradition. My two cousins, sister, and brother-in-law really sold me on Greek life and Winter Carnival. My sister, cousin and I are all Alpha Sigma Taus and I’m continuing with the alumni chapter down here in Lansing. So I have to admit, there weren’t really other colleges on my radar. 

I wasn’t an early bird when it came to being scholastic or a high achiever, but I knew Tech was where high achieving students go. I wanted to integrate into that kind of intellectual community and found a home with the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers, who persuaded me that I can succeed in graduate school and research. Just telling someone they can do it is really powerful. Kudos to them and I hope they’re still going strong!