Mechanical engineering graduate student Nathan Ortiz is a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP). This prestigious fellowship supports outstanding doctoral and research-based master’s students doing research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines.

Established in 1952, the NSF GRFP is the oldest fellowship program of its kind. The 2022 fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000, a $12,000 cost of allowance for tuition and fees, and numerous research and professional development opportunities.

Ortiz’s interest in mechanical engineering started in high school with an auto shop class. As he worked on cars, he realized that he was more curious about how things actually work than he was in fixing them. This lead him to student mechanical engineering at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, where he received his undergraduate degree before coming to the University of Utah.

“My first introduction the heat transfer was during my undergrad,” said Ortiz. “I really enjoyed the professor and the subject matter. I loved the puzzle of it, and the intuition it built on how to look at a system and see heat.”

When it came time for grad school, Ortiz wanted to continue working in the realm of thermal scientists and went looking for programs that excited him. The U offered that opportunity. Ortiz met with Dr. Rao and discussed an atmospheric water harvesting project focusing on a materials adsorption-based approach. With water being a major concern across the globe, Ortiz was very excited to work on the project.

“Nathan is an incredibly resourceful individual,” said Dr. Rao. “His proposed research is well-formulated, based on sound scientific principles, and truly has the potential to unlock a new class of adsorbent composites that are applicable to water harvesting.”

In addition to his research work, Ortiz is motivated by the impact of his work in the real world. He is passionate about his work on water harvesting, as well as working with Dr. Rao to conduct outreach activities at the University of Utah’s Hi-GEAR (Girls Engineering Abilities Realized) summer camp.

“I’m super excited to receive this award,” said Ortiz. “I love what I’m doing here at the U and really focused on what I have done so far and what I want to accomplish next.”

You can read more about other NSF GRFP Fellowship Recipients in the College of Engineering here.