Physics Major Receives Prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Emily Hommerding, a senior physics major, has received a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes outstanding senior undergraduate and doctoral-level students in the natural, social, and engineering sciences at U.S. institutions. These doctoral fellowships are for three years and come with a $30,000 per year stipend in addition to tuition support that the student can use at the university of his or her choice. Former graduate fellows include 30 Nobel laureates and 440 members of the National Academy of Sciences. Hommerding will choose a graduate program this spring.

The fellowships are highly competitive. Out of 13,000 applicants from among the top students in the U.S., only 2,000 fellowships were awarded this year. Only three other IIT students have won the award since 1998, according to Domenica Pappas, director of Office of Sponsored Research & Programs.

Hommerding has been doing research under Physics Professor John Zasadzinski since her sophomore year in the area of surface studies of Niobium for superconducting radio frequency (SRF) cavity applications. This research has been in collaboration with Fermilab and Argonne as such SRF cavities are an enabling device for future large-scale accelerators. Her work is featured in the new Department of Physics video, “Global Reach at a Human Scale:

In spring 2012, Hommerding won the IIT Undergraduate Research poster competition for her work on Raman Spectroscopy of Niobium for SRF Applications.

Hommerding has also participated in two summer NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs, most recently at the University of Washington, Seattle, where she learned the technique of X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS). Her NSF proposal involved the combination of Raman, XPS and other probes to address the surface problems of Niobium in SRF cavities.

Hommerding has served as a teaching assistant in the physics department as well as vice president of the Society of Physics Students. She also was a student government senator.