National Science Foundation recognizes Baylor engineering student with prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF)

WACO, TX – Second-year mechanical engineering graduate student, Sarah Stair, recently was notified of her selection to receive an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to continue development of non-destructive testing techniques for carbon fiber composite materials.

The NSF-GRF program awards fellowships to outstanding graduate students in specific science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines, and who are pursuing research-based graduate degrees.

The fellowship is just one of the numerous honors the Arlington, Texas, native has received. Last fall she earned both a scholarship award and second place for her poster presentation at the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Automotive Composites Conference Exhibition in Novi, Michigan. Stair also was a top-four finalist for best paper/presentation at last year's American Society for Composites technical conference. More recently, her poster presentation took third place at the SPE's annual technical conference just this spring.

Additionally, she has received an NSF travel award to attend the Society of Mechanical Engineers International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Expo in San Diego, and this summer will serve an internship at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.

Stair, who works in Dr. David Jack's Materials Characterization Lab in the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative, says it was during her undergraduate studies that a now-retired Baylor professor first inspired her to focus on these versatile materials.

"It was an internship with Dr. (Walter) Bradley. I had him for materials class and he let me know about an internship he had that summer. I ended up working with the scanning electron microscope for about half the summer and I just fell in love with materials and material science."

Stair comes by her knack for engineering honestly — her father is a mechanical engineer for a major aerospace firm; he also attended Baylor. She is modest about the accolades that have come her way.

"I definitely think that a big portion of the awards and the recognition has been because of the topic," she says. But Dr. Jack has a different take.

"Sarah is one of hardest working students I've ever been associated with," he says. "Not only is she good in the lab, but she's good on the theoretical side of things. I know that wherever she goes, she will rise to the top of any group."

Stair plans to return to Baylor this fall to pursue her PhD.

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.