Vickers awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for environmental engineering

April 22, 2019

Riley Vickers

Riley Vickers

Riley Vickers, a doctoral student at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is one of 31 environmental engineering students in the country to win a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship in 2019.

The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

With this award, Vickers, who studies in the Gillings School’s environmental sciences and engineering department, has earned three years of support for his graduate education.

Vickers’ research focuses on designing new ion exchange membranes, used to desalinate water and store electricity, that may enhance global capacity for water purification and sustainable energy generation.

“I am honored to have received the award and deeply thankful to my lab mates, Dr. Cass Miller and Dr. Orlando Coronell. I wouldn’t be where I am without their support and helpful guidance,” said Vickers.

Vickers’ research is a collaborative effort with the Coronell Research Group — led by Orlando Coronell, PhD, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering — and Cass T. Miller, PhD, Okun Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering. The group studies membrane-based processes for water purification and energy production and storage, with applications in municipal, industrial and household systems.

“NSF Graduate Research Fellowships are prestigious awards granted to highly promising students who propose to do innovative work of potential high impact,” said Coronell. “I am delighted that one of our students has been awarded this fellowship, as it speaks well to the quality of both our students and the work performed in our department.”

 The fellowship also will grant Vickers access to XSEDE supercomputing resources,  providing the opportunity to simulate and optimize models for ion exchange membranes and then implement them in the lab.

Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at

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