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Seven University of Central Florida graduate students are currently interning at Adobe and 3M, among other leading employers thanks to fellowships supported by the National Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering Fellowship (GEM) program.

The GEM program began in 1976. The public-private partnership aims to connect students from underrepresented groups with the nation’s top employers and universities. Those selected receive a $16,000 fellowship from the GEM Consortium, a paid summer internship, and a tuition remission for a master’s or doctoral program of their choice. The national program is highly competitive and enables students to be placed in coveted internships with some of the nation’s industry leaders in STEM.

UCF has been a partner university for more than 20 years. The GEM program is one of several supporting students of color at UCF, a Hispanic Serving Institution.

This year’s UCF GEM Fellows are:

Novia Berriel ’21MS— doctoral student in materials science
Jeffrey Chan-Santiago — doctoral student in computer science
Joseph Green — master’s student in computer science
Dania Jean-Baptiste — master’s student in cybersecurity
Andrea Molina Moreno ’22 — doctoral student in materials science
Jason Ortiz — doctoral student in computer science
Kiaria Tucker — doctoral student in chemistry

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Currently a researcher in associate professor of materials science Parag Banerjee’s lab, Novia Berriel will continue her education as a doctoral fellow in materials science. She originally came to UCF because of the so-called “two-body problem” — the need for two professional spouses to find suitable placements in the same area — but has since fallen in love with everything the university has to offer.

“UCF is at the cutting edge of everything,” she says. “And being a Hispanic woman, I appreciate that it’s an HSI.”

Berriel earned her master’s in physics at UCF in 2021. Since she began the degree in 2018, she has been working to explore atomic layer deposition of thin films. In this capacity, she’s been able to engage with different disciplines by producing the films needed for a variety of devices.

The opportunity “to be interdisciplinary in your everyday life” is one of her favorite aspects of the materials science department at UCF.

“You can collaboratively interface with so many other labs,” Berriel says. “I work in Research Building I, which houses faculty and labs from many different departments. So, I’ve been able to meet experts in different disciplines by just walking around.”

As a GEM fellow and intern for Lam Research, she hopes to build expertise in semiconductor development and solar cells, while making the most of the chance to research freely, meet other Fellows and embrace interdisciplinary collaboration.


After building a foundation in the different areas of STEM, Andrea Molina Moreno decided to focus on materials engineering.

She says that “it has a uniquely broad scope. You can work with anything you choose, since almost everything is material.”

Moreno came upon this decision in the midst of several transitions: immigrating from Caracas, Venezuela, transferring from Simón Bolívar University, and graduating among UCF’s first cohort of bachelor’s materials science students.

With the GEM fellowship, she will pursue a doctoral degree in materials science. This summer, she is gaining experience in industry by interning at 3M in Minneapolis. As she continues her education, Moreno most looks forward to serving as a role model for fellow Hispanic female engineers.

What has motivated her so far is the desire to “gather as much knowledge as she possibly can.” She shares that “I’ve been studying for so much of my life, and it’s what I really enjoy doing — learning more and more.”

Written by Alexandra Angeloff for UCF Today.