2024 Sandia Graduate Fellows

URA is pleased to announce the eleven outstanding graduate students selected for the 2024 URA Sandia Graduate Student Summer Fellowship. Learn more about our 2024 Fellows below who will spend 12 weeks at the Albuquerque and Livermore Sandia National Laboratories this summer!

Adam Jafaar, Georgia Institute of Technology

I am a first-year graduate student majoring in mechanical engineering with a micro/nano engineering concentration. My interests involve fabrication and testing of MEMS devices using different engineering design techniques and CAD software. My research involves membrane resonator sensors for sub-micron diameter particle counting for applications such as air quality monitoring and characterization of nanoparticle properties. I look forward to my fellowship at Sandia National Laboratories working on super high frequency resonators, and I hope to contribute to the field of sensors. In my free time, I enjoy playing badminton, going out to trivia nights, and learning new languages.

Alec Shelley, Stanford University

I am a third year applied physics PhD student at Stanford working with Professor Daniel Tartakovsky. I am interested in a broad range of topics in statistical physics, and I am working on developing stochastic methods for disordered systems. Recently this has included using the signature transform from rough paths theory to enhance SVM learning for noisy nonlinear dynamics. I hope to pursue a career in academia after I graduate, and in my free time I like to cook, paint, and play cards.


Aliza Siddiqui, University of Colorado at Boulder

Hi, I’m Aliza! I am a first year PhD student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. My research area is quantum computing and architecture. Specifically, I am working towards creating new benchmarking frameworks for error-corrected quantum computers. I received my BS from LSU in Computer Science and am proud to be from the Tiger family! When I am not at my computer, I love to challenge myself by trying new things – whether that is an activity or even food. Recently, I’ve tried hiking different trails and plan to go skiing soon! Aside from that, I do all sorts of art and play racket sports.

Anna Johnson, Rice University

As a 4th year PhD candidate on the Experimental Petrology team at Rice University, I study how the Earth stores and releases sulfur by experimentally reproducing the inaccessible mantle’s high pressure, high temperature conditions and analyzing the chemistry of the synthesized minerals. I will be joining the HyMARC project at Sandia to pivot this foundation in volatile absorption by solids toward characterizing novel materials for hydrogen storage, and look forward to gaining hands-on experience with an array of state-of-the-art analytical instruments. Outside of the lab, I am an avid cyclist and plan to pedal all over California’s sweeping landscapes this summer.


Charith DeSilva, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I am a 3rd year PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My current research focuses on using first-principles approaches to study the defect properties of various high-entropy nitrides. Specifically, using an energy density method via Density Functional Theory to predict the vacancy formation energy of nitrogen sites. I am very excited to continue studying defect properties at Sandia, where I will be utilizing both DFT and ML architectures, like graph neural networks, to predict vacancy kinetics in solid-state materials. In my free time, I enjoy playing volleyball, going to the gym, and reading science-fiction novels.

Charles Bowen, University of North Texas

I’m a 2nd year physics graduate student at the University of North Texas. I’m interested in developing accelerator-based technology and techniques for practical applications in industry.  My current research is on the development of light element x-ray detection systems for high energy microprobes and analyzing the radiation tolerance of two-dimensional material devices.  At Sandia, I will be focusing on improving the resolution of their proton microprobe system, as well as performing irradiation testing of two-dimensional materials.  When I’m not in the lab I love to explore nature, play chess, and go to the gym.


Duncan Boren, Michigan State University

I’m a 3rd year PhD student studying Biochemistry and Molecular Plant Sciences. I am interested in using molecular dynamics and other computational tools to model atom-scale interactions in photosynthetic organisms. My current research focuses on protein-lipid interactions underlying abiotic stress tolerance in plants. At Sandia, I will be using machine learning to investigate the viral tests and their capacity to detect mutated viruses. Outside of the lab, I love reading, riding bikes, and lifting weights.

Iyare Oseghae, University of Texas San Antonio

I am currently a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the Environmental Science and Engineering program at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). I am a San Antonio, TX native who joins URA-SNL from Texas Tech University where I received my B.S. in Geophysics and UTSA where I got a M.S. in Geoinformatics. My research involves using remote sensing to study terrestrial atmospheric, geological, and geophysical processes. Outside of the lab I enjoy cooking, sports, and quality relaxation time.

Jimmy Gammell, Purdue University

I am a 3rd year PhD student studying machine learning. I am currently researching adversarial training of deep neural networks to understand and mitigate side-channel attacks against implementations of cryptographic algorithms such as AES. My goal at Sandia will be to train machine learning surrogates to predict outcomes of liquid metal dealloying simulations with longer time horizons than are achievable using classical numerical techniques. In my free time I enjoy lifting weights, hiking, and listening to music.

Kevin Mok, Michigan State University

Embarking on a pioneering path where the worlds of microbiology, molecular genetics, and computational analysis converge, I am currently advancing my academic and professional prowess with a Master’s degree in Data Science at Michigan State University. Rooted in a comprehensive Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology & Molecular Genetics and a minor in Bioethics, my foray into bioinformatics is driven by a commitment to blend these disciplines seamlessly. My journey through the complex world of biobased chemical production at the MSU Bioeconomy Institute has not only deepened my understanding of microbial behaviors but also kindled my fascination with harnessing data to unlock new discoveries in biology. Here, I’ve led projects in process development, mastering microbial culture management and leveraging computational tools to streamline experimental processes in a Biosafety Level 2 lab setting. This rich blend of hands-on and computational experience is further augmented by the discipline, analytical prowess, and leadership skills developed during my service in the U.S. Army. As I transition into a learning role at Sandia National Laboratories, my goal is to harness my unique skill set in microbiology, molecular genetics, and data science to contribute to the cutting-edge field of viral genomics, aiming to uncover new insights into viral mechanisms and contribute to our global health security.

Rachel Gaines, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

As a fourth-year PhD candidate in chemical engineering, I study process optimization for electrocatalytic systems utilizing industrial wastes to synthesize value-added chemicals. My project emphasizes tailoring electrochemical reactions to optimize activity, selectivity, and durability while minimizing the cost of purification and separation. At Sandia, I will augment these research directions, studying the separation of PFAS degradation byproducts as well as carbon dioxide capture and sequestration. I have a B.S. in Environmental Science from Appalachian State University, where I was also a member of the US national field hockey team. Outside of work, I enjoy weightlifting, playing video games with my fiancé, and dabbling in interior design.