Hope College senior Joshua Nkonge of St. Louis, Missouri, has received a highly competitive Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

Hope students or graduates have received fellowships or honorable mention through the program every year for more than 20 years.  The NSF awarded 2,000 of the fellowships nationwide this year, and recognized another 1,459 applicants with honorable mention.  There were more than 12,000 applicants.

“Josh is a pleasure to have in class and I am continually impressed with his work,” said Dr. Katharine Polasek, an associate professor of engineering at Hope who has been Nkonge’s academic advisor at the college. “His research aspirations have the potential to enact real change in developing nations and I am excited to follow his career and hear of his future successes.”

The awards are for students pursuing a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field.  The fellowships provide support for up to three years, and pay a $34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution.

Nkonge is majoring in engineering with an emphasis in biomedical engineering.  He will pursue a doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan and a career conducting research that will help advance medical devices for underrepresented populations.

“Through my undergraduate experience, I have come to believe that two important goals of healthcare, locally and internationally, are to develop a sustainable research culture in higher education and bring research to fruition through practical application.  I think these goals can be addressed and accomplished through the stimulation of collaborative research between education and healthcare systems in developed and developing nations,” he said.  “I am hoping to utilize my research for the design and manufacture of medical devices for underrepresented groups, both nationally and abroad.”

Nkonge’s experiences as a student have included a four-month summer internship with J-KEM Scientific in Missouri during which he developed a device for wireless communication between laptop computers and temperature and PH controllers manufactured by the company.  On campus, he has been an academic tutor for multiple engineering courses as well as other courses such as Human Anatomy and General Chemistry. 

His other activities at the college have included participating in the Phelps Scholars Program, a residence hall-based academic program for freshmen that focuses on topics related to diversity, and serving as a residence life assistant.