Hostetter receives research grant

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Haley Hostetter of Jasper was one of three students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale selected by The National Science Foundation to receive a highly competitive research grant — the Graduate Research Fellowship Award — aimed at nurturing the country’s scientific and engineering leaders of tomorrow.

The program 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 United States institutions.

A senior in civil engineering, Hostetter last summer completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program during which she studied at the University of California-Berkeley’s Simulation and Computational Modeling Center, also known as “the SimCenter.” The research project focused on geotechnical earthquake engineering, which later became the center of her NSF fellowship application.

“I applied as a prospective master’s student wanting to complete a degree in structural/earthquake engineering,” Hostetter said. “The research project I proposed is for an earthquake evacuation study in various structures for people with disabilities.”

Hostetter said her experience with the SIU’s Saluki Service Dawgs registered student organization opened her eyes and fired a passion for helping make the world more accessible for the disabled community.

“Through the Saluki Service Dawgs, I learned how inaccessible the world is for people in wheelchairs, with service dogs, with oxygen tanks, and so much more,” Hostetter said. “I want to help make buildings safer for the community in the event of a natural disaster.”

Hostetter said SIU prepared her to compete for the NSF fellowship in several ways. Countless supporters helped her through the application process, with two professors writing letters of recommendation.

“The civil engineering program has been instrumental in providing me with not only the technical background I needed to compete on the same level as students from Harvard, Yale, UC-Berkeley and others, but also in allowing me to pursue my own interests and choose courses that match those interests,” Hostetter said.

She also cited the many engineering-related registered student organizations she has joined, including Tau Beta Pi (engineering honor society), the American Society of Civil Engineers, where she held several officer positions, and Saluki Service Dawgs.

Hostetter said she will use the NSF fellowship to pursue her master’s degree in structural engineering at Clemson University. The fellowship will allow her to focus on her classes without needing a second job or assistantship.

“The professor I am working for researches fire as a structural hazard, and I am hoping to participate in a joint project with a transportation professor on a fire evacuation study for those with disabilities in various types of structures,” she said. “Once I finish my master’s degree, I will be looking at obtaining my professional engineering license and my structural engineering license while working for a structural engineering firm.”

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