Stefani Kocevska, Ph.D. Student, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
Dr. Ronald W. Rousseau, Georgia Tech
“Few students have demonstrated Stefani’s enthusiasm for research, willingness to take on complex and difficult challenges, and keen intelligence. She has accomplished a great deal in less than two years, and has also illustrated the ability to explain her work clearly and concisely in oral and written communications.”
Stefani Kocevska is only just finishing up her second year as a graduate student at Georgia Tech, and already she’s been honored several times for her work. This spring she was named a recipient of the Roy G. Post Foundation scholarship. She also received the AIChE Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award from Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, where she helps instruct Dr. Martha Grover’s class in Process Control. That’s not to mention being awarded the DOE’s three-year Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) Fellowship, starting this fall. It’s fair to say that Stefani is on a roll!
Stefani’s journey to CRESP and her interest in academic research began with her Chemical Engineering studies at New Jersey Institute of Technology. Having liked studying chemistry and math in high school, she saw chemical engineering as a way to apply that passion in a way that was “useful.” Over the course of her undergraduate career, Stefani had a series of internships, co-ops and jobs at Whitehouse Analytical Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb and others.
In 2015, Stefani was named a Governor’s STEM Scholar for New Jersey. She was one of just 10 college students selected to lead a team of high school students on a year-long research project. It was this experience that led her to pursue an academic career. “The Governor’s STEM Scholars Program helped me grow not only as a researcher but also as a leader,” says Stefani. “The experience made me realize I wanted to go into academic research, work with others as a group, and build on my leadership skills.”
As a direct result of her participation in the Governor’s STEM Scholars Program, Stefani was selected for an internship in pharmaceutical development at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where she studied the effects of mixing on crystallization and particle agglomeration. “The internship familiarized me with the crystallization research of Dr. Rousseau and Dr. Grover at Georgia Tech,” she explains. “When it came time to apply for graduate school, I knew Georgia Tech had to be my first choice.”
For the past two years, Stefani has been co-advised by Drs. Rousseau and Grover. Her research focuses on using and comparing online monitoring tools such as Infrared and Raman Spectroscopy to collect high-dimensional measurements of multicomponent tank waste systems in real time. These online tools will help reduce or eliminate offline sampling at the Hanford site and the associated risks to both the environment and employees. Her goal is to develop robust empirical models that will help automate the nuclear waste monitoring process.
“From the beginning, Stefani has independently read the literature and reports to gain as much understanding as she can about waste processing,” says Dr. Grover. “ This has been critical for working with our partners at Savannah River. She has also played an important role in building these new relationships, asking good questions and developing a research plan aimed especially toward the DFLAW (direct feed low activity waste) process at Hanford.”
Stefani is also a Georgia Tech FLAMEL scholar in the NSF FLAMEL (From Learning, Analytics, and Materials to Entrepreneurship and Leadership) traineeship program.
Dr. Rousseau sums it up by saying “I have observed Stefani’s present research results with confidence, clarity, and an ability to respond thoughtfully to questions. I think we are fortunate to have Stefani choose to work with us.”