Three Eagles Win Prestigious National Science Foundation Research Grants

Adriana Formby Fernandez
Adriana Formby-Fernandez plans to earn a Ph.D. in physical oceanography from UC San Diego-Scripps Institute of Oceanography. (Photo: Adriana Formby-Fernandez)

When Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University senior Adriana Formby-Fernandez won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship recently, she added her name to a list that includes Steven Chu, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, and Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. 

“Feels pretty good,” the Engineering Physics student said. “The news has been hitting me in stages.” 

Formby-Fernandez is one of three Eagles to win the fellowship this year. The other two winners are alumnae Kelly Patterson (’10) and Janice Cabrera (’19), who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Janice Cabrera
Janice Cabrera, who graduated from Embry-Riddle in 2019, is a Ph.D. candidate at the Georgia Institute of Technology. (Photo: Janice Cabrera)

Starting in 1952, NSF has funded more than 60,000 Graduate Research Fellowships, selecting recipients from among more than 500,000 applicants. Forty-two fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates. Fellowships are a five-year award which provide the student with three years of funding including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a $12,000 annual allowance for tuition and fees. 

Cabrera, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering in 2019, credits some of her primary school teachers with helping her cultivate her love of math and science. 

“I have fond memories of my middle-school teachers, who nurtured my interest in pursuing a STEM career by simply having conversations about the different career paths within STEM,” she said. 

When Cabrera took a career quiz, aerospace engineering stood out to her and, soon after, she researched the kinds of engineering problems that come up in that field. 

“The astronautics aspect of aerospace engineering really captured my interest. I knew I would always be working on an exciting new problem every day,” she said. 

At the Georgia Institute of Technology, Cabrera is a member of the High-Power Electric Propulsion Lab with a primary research interest in high-speed plasma diagnostics. She is also in her first rotation as a NASA Pathways intern at Langley Research Center in Virginia. 

Formby-Fernandez has accepted an offer from the University of California, San Diego-Scripps Institute of Oceanography to earn a PhD in Physical Oceanography. 

For more information or to apply for a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, contact the Embry-Riddle Office of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships at

Posted In: Engineering | Research