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Yisa Rumala

College: York College
Awards: NSF Graduate Research Fellow, 2006

A Scientist at Heart

Top scientists make their mark early. By that standard, York College senior Yisa Rumala is right on schedule.

Rumala, a physics and math major who is graduating this spring at age 20, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He's in elite company. In 2006, 8,162 students applied to the program, which provides funding for three years of study; only 907 were offered fellowships. The stipend rate for 2006-2007 is $30,000.

Rumala will use his award to attend the University of Michigan, where he will pursue a PhD in applied physics. Like the National Science Foundation, the university found the incoming graduate student an impressive candidate - it awarded him a Rackham Science Award worth $1,850 monthly, plus tuition and fees, to support his first three years of studies.

A New York native, Rumala spent most of his childhood in Nigeria, where he lived with relatives and learned about his family's heritage. He traces his interest in science to that time.

"My uncle was an electrical engineer," he says. "He was always tweaking the computer and the television, and my hand was aching to touch something."

In 2002, Rumala returned to the city and matriculated at York College, where he earned numerous academic honors. His resume includes participation in summer research projects at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University. As a McNair Scholar, he spent much of his senior year conducting experiments under the supervision of Assistant Professor of Physics Gregory Boutis, PhD.

"I'm impressed with Yisa's motivation," says Boutis. "He works extremely hard, which is what you need to pursue the sciences."