Harvey Mudd Recipients of 2024 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

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Three Harvey Mudd College seniors—James Clinton, Ryan O’Hara and William Yik—and four recent graduates have been awarded fellowships through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Three seniors and 10 recent graduates earned honorable mention.

The GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. Program participants are seen as future experts who will contribute significantly to research, education and innovation in the STEM fields.

James Clinton ’24 (engineering) has worked closely with physics professor Mark Ilton to study spring-driven mechanisms for robotics and has analyzed the impacts of different design parameters on the performance of spring-driven jumping robots. Clinton is developing a mechanism, inspired by slingshot spiders, to understand how control, spring properties, and scaling impact system performance. He also worked with Anthony Clark, a computer science professor at Pomona College, to develop a locomotion mechanism that transforms between wheels that operate on flat surfaces and larger, spoked wheels for rough terrain and climbing. Last summer, Clinton participated in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, working with Zeynep Temel. Clinton worked on a reconfigurable robot swarm, developing arm mechanisms for enhancing locomotion capabilities of the robots, enabling them to climb up and down obstacles.

Clinton is president of Harvey Mudd’s chapter of Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society. He also helps organize events for Mudd Advocates, a peer support organization, and is co-president of MuddSub, a group developing a fully autonomous underwater robot for the annual RoboSub competition. He is a machine shop proctor and makerspace repair steward. Clinton plans to pursue a PhD in mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara and work on robotic mechanism design. He’s interested in a career in academia.

Ryan O’Hara ’24 (environmental robotics and computer science/mathematics) founded the first-ever, student-run Harvey Mudd Clinic project, funded by the 776 Fellowship he received in 2023. His Clinic team succeeded in its goal of building a robot capable of identifying and removing purple sea urchins from marine ecosystems in order to support kelp conservation efforts. O’Hara is finishing up a research internship with NASA’s Ames Research Center, where he developed an algorithm capable of analyzing and predicting the contrails formed by commercial flights; the end goal is to use this work to develop flight plans that minimize contrail formation and dramatically decrease the aviation industry’s role in climate change).

A leader in climate activism and policy, O’Hara has written several of the United Nation’s and IPCC’s key climate documents and recently attended the UN’s world climate summit, COP28, in Dubai to advocate for a global transition away from fossil fuels—”which, excitedly, we were able to get every country to agree to for the first time in history,” he says.

After Harvey Mudd, O’Hara will begin a full-time job at UC San Diego working with other researchers to develop nanotherapies and nanoparticles to more effectively deliver disease therapies. He’s interested in the overlap between disease formation and environmental damage and finding ways to treat those who develop life-threatening illnesses due to exposure to pollutants. In the long-term, O’Hara hopes to pursue an MD-PhD and continue to work on developing therapies to treat those hurt by environmental damage and pollution and influence policy formation that mitigates the health hazards associated with environmental damage and climate change.

William Yik ’24 (computer science and mathematics) has done research at three institutions while at Harvey Mudd. From his first summer (2021) through spring 2023, he worked in the AMISTAD Lab with Harvey Mudd computer science professor George Montañez studying novel two-distribution hypothesis testing methods for identifying bias in machine learning training data. Yik also worked with a fellow AMISTAD member, Cynthia Hom ’23, on finding finite-sample bounds for those two-distribution hypothesis tests. From summer 2022 through the present, he’s done research on climate model emulation with neural networks and climate forecast equity at the University of Southern California with Sam Silva, a professor of earth sciences, civil and environmental engineering, and population and public health sciences. Since summer 2023, Yik has worked with professor Maike Sonnewald (UC Davis) at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory on ensemble deep learning methods for subsurface ocean inference. His summer 2023 internship was funded by an Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship,

At Harvey Mudd, Yik is as an Academic Excellence mathematics tutor, and a member of the Claremont Braineaters, the 5C men’s club ultimate frisbee team. After graduation, Yik plans to pursue a PhD in atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington where he will study data-driven methods for Earth system modeling. A career in climate predictability interests him.

Student (major)Research Area
Clay Adams ’24 (math)Algebra, Number Theory, Combinatorics
Eric Chen ’24 (CS/math)Robotics
Megan Li ’24 (CS/math)Fairness, Explainability, Accountability and Transparency in Analysis
HMC Students Awarded the NSF GRFP Honorable Mention
Alum (major)Research AreaGraduate School
Carissa DeRanek ’19 (math/computational biology)EcologyUCLA
Amit Harlev ’22 (math)Applied MathematicsCornell University
Fionna Kopp ’22 (engineering/German)Mechanical EngineeringUC Berkeley
Jason William Misleh ’22 (chemistry)Sustainable ChemistryStanford University
HMC Alumni Awarded Fellowships through the NSF GRFP
Alum (major)Research AreaGraduate School
Ivy Chen’20 (physics)Photonic MaterialsCaltech
Red Willow Coleman ’22 (math/computational biology)Urban Earth Science & Remote SensingN/A
Katherine Erickson ’19 (math/computational biology)Evolutionary BiologyUC Davis
Emily Fok ’22 (chemistry)Chemical SynthesisUC Berkeley
Seth Isaacson ’21 (CS/math)RoboticsRegents of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Makenna Elizabeth Parkinson ’23 (engineering)Environmental EngineeringYale University
Kaveh Pezeshki ’22 (physics)Quantum Information ScienceStanford Leland Junior University
William Schulze ’07 (engineering)Surveillance, Censorship & PrivacyMichigan State University
Ellie Smith ’22 (chemistry)Atmospheric ChemistryUC Irvine
Celine Wang ’22 (chemistry/biology)Chemistry of Life ProcessesUC Berkeley
HMC Alumni Awarded the NSF GRFP Honorable Mention