Alex Ferguson awarded prestigious fellowship from Department of Defense

Electrical engineering senior Alexandra Ferguson, of Livonia, Mich., is one of 180 students nationwide who recently was selected to receive the prestigious 2016 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. More than 3,000 students applied for the highly competitive fellowship, which is funded by the Department of Defense. This award supports U.S. citizens and nationals who plan to pursue a doctoral degree in one of 15 disciplines at the U.S. institution of their choice. Recipients are those who have “demonstrated the ability and special aptitude for advanced training in science and engineering.”  The fellowship is awarded for three years and pays for full tuition as well as a monthly stipend.

Ferguson plans to stay at WMU to complete a master’s degree in electrical engineering in spring 2017. She will then search for engineering doctoral programs focusing on neuroscience or neurobiology. “I am honored to accept this prestigious fellowship,” Ferguson said. “I want my research to make a difference in the world.”

She currently works in the WMU Neurobiology Engineering Laboratory directed by Dr. Damon Miller, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. They are collaborating with faculty in the university’s mathematics and biological sciences departments to find smaller electrical stimulation currents that yield the same neuron responses as higher currents in leech neurons. The research could have potential in improving ways to treat neurological diseases.

Miller applauded Ferguson's work as an undergraduate and her selection for the fellowship.  "Alex is a most deserving student for this award,” he said. “She sets high goals for herself and then puts in the long hours to achieve those goals.  She does not just excel in the classroom and lab -- she is also active on campus, including being a member of the Bronco Marching Band."  

Miller also noted that “Alex has particularly impressed me with her ability to quickly learn new material and skills outside of engineering.  For example, she completed a rotation in Dr. John Jellies’ Laboratory on leech electrophysiology in preparation for her thesis work."

The Department of Defense fellowship program seeks to increase “the number and quality of our nation's scientists and engineers.” Approximately 3,200 fellowships have been awarded over the last 22 years. Further information can be found at