Computational Engineering Senior Receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

April 23, 2020

photo of eric gaglianoEric Gagliano, a computational engineering senior in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics (ASE/EM), is a recipient of the 2020 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship supports students pursuing graduate degrees in a STEM field at a U.S. university. Fellows receive a $34,000 annual stipend over a three-year period, along with a $12,000 education allowance to attend any U.S. institution of their choice, as well as opportunities for international research and professional development.

Gagliano plans to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Washington working for assistant professor David Shean in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department where he will use  remote sensing techniques to better understand the cryosphere (frozen water on Earth).

During his undergraduate studies in computational engineering at UT Austin, Gagliano worked under the advisement of assistant professor Ann Chen of the ASE/EM Department to track velocities of glaciers in Western Greenland by building interferograms from Synthetic Aperture Radar data. Gagliano said he decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in computational engineering because it “offered the tool set he needed to pursue cool research in the geosciences.”

computational model of glacier
This computational image shows the displacement in centimeters per day of an ocean-terminating glacier in Western Greenland.

 Gagliano has worked in a variety of summer internship roles, gaining a great deal of real-world experience in the field of computational engineering. The summer after his sophomore year, he completed his first internship at Applied Research Laboratories where he helped develop a prototype active sonar ontology. He also spent two summers at Sandia National Laboratories where he worked on predicting cloud cover and modernized a satellite and remote sensing codebase. He then used  Synthetic Aperture Radar and computer vision methods to aid navigation for platforms in GPS-denied environments. In addition, Gagliano worked as a historical data intern at the national branch of Camp Kesem.

Gagliano has also been involved with a number of extracurricular programs during his undergraduate years, including Student Engineers Educating Kids, Camp Kesem, UT Concert Chorale, Theta Tau, Students Expanding Austin Literacy, Collegium Musicum and Humanitarian Product Design. He has also served in multiple STEM mentorship roles.

“I’ve been a FIG mentor for four wonderful classes of freshman students who I each love and cherish,” Gagliano said. “I am also the vice president of Mentoring for Student Engineers Educating Kids where I decide on the weekly STEM curriculum our organization teaches to over 160 children in Austin area schools every semester.”

Gagliano said that it’s been a bit harder to stay focused during online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that he’s glad UT is taking the necessary precautions to keep our community safe.

“It’s definitely harder to keep focus on schoolwork now! In the past, I’ve always had to leave the apartment and go to the PCL in order to be productive which I can’t really do now. Now, when I need to get stuff done, I have to delete TikTok for a couple of hours and promise myself I won’t keep opening the fridge to see what’s inside,” Gagliano said. “I’m disappointed there won’t be a commencement this semester, but I’m glad UT is taking appropriate precautions and I look forward to visiting in the fall for the delayed graduation!”

After completing his Ph.D., Gagliano hopes to find work as a post-doc and eventually plans to become a professor where he can teach and lead research.

“I hope to pursue research that will help us better understand the cryosphere and ultimately sea level rise in order to keep people and important infrastructure safe. Once I’ve had my fill with research and it’s around time to retire, I want to teach high school science and math.”