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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Rensselaer Graduate Students Successful in Garnering Summer Fellowships

Rensselaer graduate students Christopher Sprague and Ezra Teboul.

February 28, 2017

Rensselaer Graduate Students Successful in Garnering Summer Fellowships

External funding opportunities play important roles in research

Two recent awards highlight the ongoing success of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduate students in securing external funding opportunities for summer research and artistic activities.

Christopher Sprague, a co-terminal student in aerospace engineering, has been awarded a National Science Foundation East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) Fellowship. He will conduct research in Tokyo this summer at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). This award includes a summer stipend of $5,000, roundtrip airfare, and in-country living expenses.

EAPSI awards provide U.S. graduate students in science, engineering, and education firsthand research experiences in Australia, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, or Taiwan, as well as an introduction to the science, science policy, and scientific infrastructure of the respective location, and an orientation to its society, culture, and language.

Sprague will be researching the use of machine learning for spacecraft trajectory optimization with JAXA Professor Yasuhiro Kawakatsu for the upcoming small satellite CubeSat lunar mission, EQUULEUS. The mission will help scientists understand the radiation environment by measuring the distribution of plasma that surrounds the Earth, and also will demonstrate low-energy trajectory control techniques within the Earth-Moon region.

“Specifically, I will be applying deep artificial neural networks to enable the spacecraft to develop a spatial control policy to enable its real-time autonomous control, effectively having the spacecraft think for itself,” said Sprague.

Ezra Teboul, a composer and Ph.D. student in electronic arts, has been awarded an artist residency in Quebec. This opportunity is available through the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York Inc. on behalf of the New York State Council on the Arts in partnership with the Province of Quebec Council of Arts and Letters. One of only three professional artists selected from across New York state, he will receive a stipend of $9,000 for the three-month residency.

Teboul will be artist in residence at Sporobole, a center for contemporary art in Sherbrooke, Quebec, where he will be composing for amplified printers and multichannel sound.

“I’ll be designing things that when printed by the 3-D and 2-D printers at Sporobole will produce specific noises that will be amplified and spatialised in the venue’s multichannel sound environment,” said Teboul. “I hope to teach some workshops open to the public on how to use and misuse technologies for music making.”

Grants and fellowships from external organizations allow graduate students to set their own research agenda, and help develop their careers. Opportunities range from full fellowships with stipends, to travel grants, to opportunities for research abroad. The Office of Graduate Education provides fellowship application resources and featured funding opportunities, and conducts information sessions and workshops. Interested graduate students should contact Alice Broussard in the Office of Graduate Education for more details on external funding opportunities.

“The awards to Christoper and Ezra are two examples of recognition of the excellence of Rensselaer graduate students,” said Stanley Dunn, vice provost and dean of graduate education. “These summer fellowships illustrate that our students are clearly competitive for national and international competitive fellowship programs. Christopher’s and Ezra’s awards are only two examples of how our graduate students work at the intersection of technology and areas such as science policy and the arts.”

Graduate fellowships like these are vital to The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer that emphasizes and supports collaboration across disciplines, sectors, and regions to address the great global challenges of our day. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 85 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to