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Josh Gasick
5/09/2022

Student Spotlight: Joshua Gasick NSF Fellowship Award

Written By: Caitlin Scott

Departments:

Continuing congratulations to Mechanical Engineering graduate student Joshua Gasick on receiving a 2022 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship!

Can you tell us about your research area(s)?

Broadly, my research is in numerical optimization. This is a major part of the research that the Computational Design and Manufacturing Lab does, and so far my work has been in a few different subtopics in this area. 

The first project that I did with Prof. Xiaoping Qian in graduate school was in the field of topology optimization (TO), specifically for including a manufacturability constraint in the optimization. This was something that I mentioned in the NSF application as well. Manufacturability constraints in TO are more of an ongoing side project for me. I’m working with another graduate student in the lab to include manufacturability (additive manufacturing and multi-axis machining) constraints for a thermal-fluid optimization for a heat sink.

Prof. Qian and I are also working on another additive manufacturing constraint for TO that uses a similar approach to the first project that we worked on. Most of my research now is related to physics-informed neural networks and how they can be used in conjunction with Isogeometric Analysis (IGA) or parametrized curves and surfaces. These topics are interesting and exciting to me and I have the benefit of working for Prof. Qian who is very knowledgeable in IGA among many topics. I’m hopeful that I can continue doing work in all of these areas.

What can you tell us about the GRFP?

The GRFP is a great opportunity and I learned quite a bit just from writing the application to the award because a few professors from the department gave feedback on my drafts. It’s a 5-year award and includes 3 years of funding of about $34,000 per year. Some of the award can also go towards cost of education. I believe about 2,000 students are awarded it every year. 

Since I’m interested in a career in research this is also a good way to get started. I know that other ME professors like Prof. Dakotah Thompson have won NSF awards early in their career so I would like to follow the same path as they have, if possible. Eventually I’d like to end up as a professor or a researcher at a national lab and I think that this award is an important way that I can help position myself for that kind of career in the future. 

What insights do you have for other UW ME students interested in applying for NSF funding?

Some advice that I would give is to start early and try to get as many different people to look at the application as you can. It’s useful to get different perspectives and hear how other people are interpreting your writing. Also, it can be a little challenging to start the process, but there are lots of great resources online such as the personal statements and research plans of past winners so that you can get an idea of what the reviewers at NSF are looking for. Finally, what you state as your research plan isn’t binding or you don’t necessarily need to follow it exactly. So whatever research that you’re passionate about now might be the best thing to focus on even if in the future you might gravitate towards other specific areas/topics.