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a National Science Foundation Center of Research Excellence in Science and Technology

Undergrad Receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

May 27, 2021
Undergraduate student Christina Valletta

Christina Valletta, Undergraduate student

Hometown: I'm from Citrus Heights, a city near Sacramento.

What does it mean to you to receive a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship?

Winning this fellowship not only ensured my future in a graduate program but also increased my confidence in my abilities.

I'm currently researching in Professor Daniel Beller's lab on liquid crystals — more specifically it's a theory project about the optics from a liquid crystal director field — and I wrote the GRFP proposal on a continuation of this research.

What attracted you to UC Merced?

I came to UC Merced for undergraduate studies because of the research programs. For graduate school, I will go to UC Davis.

How did UC Merced prepare you for graduate school?

UC Merced got me introduced to research early, which will be most of grad school. I was able to explore my research interests and gain experience in the lab. There were also lots of programs that I took part in that gave me hands-on help with applications and such. One of the most useful things though, I'd say are my advisors. They are always providing opportunities and giving me advice.

What is your career plan after graduating with your Ph.D.?

Ideally, I would like to work as a museum researcher so part of my job could be doing outreach to the general public.

From Professor Daniel Beller about Christina Valletta:

“Christina is an outstanding scholar who has shown tremendous potential as a researcher and has had a very positive impact on the UC Merced physics community. She has attained a truly impressive breadth of research experience as an undergraduate, spanning the three main modes of physics investigation — experiment, theory and computational modeling — in topics as varied as quantum optics, soft materials and biological physics. At the helm of the Women in Physics chapter, she has created an active and broadly inclusive hub of physics undergraduate life and career development events, which have been all the more important during the pandemic.

Along with the enormous prestige of winning the NSF fellowship as an undergraduate, Christina's award recognizes her expertise in ‘computationally intensive research,’ an area of nationwide priority. Christina's versatile research skills and scientific curiosity will carry her far in her doctoral studies and beyond.”