Rachel Ollier, left, and Rosie Ries are 2019 Astronaut Scholars.
Rachel Ollier, left, and Rosie Ries are 2019 Astronaut Scholars.

Rachel Ollier and Rosie Ries awarded Astronaut Scholarships

asf-logoBy Susan Meikle, university news and communications

Miami University seniors Rachel Ollier and Rosamiel “Rosie” Ries have been awarded scholarships from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF). They are two of 52 students from 40 universities to receive the award, worth up to $10,000, for the 2019-2020 academic year.

The Astronaut Scholarship is among the most significant merit-based monetary scholarships awarded to undergraduate STEM juniors and seniors who intend to pursue research or advance their field upon completion of their final degree.

Astronaut Scholars are among the best and brightest minds in STEM who show initiative, creativity and excellence in their chosen field, according to the ASF.


Rachel Ollier (photo by Jeff Sabo)

Rachel Ollier: Chemical engineering major and a physics and process control double minor

Ollier, from Beavercreek, started at Miami as a biochemistry major and pre-medical studies co-major. Attracted by the mix of physics, calculus and chemistry, she switched majors to chemical engineering and loves the opportunity to apply these subjects "to real world situations,” she said.

She began undergraduate research with faculty mentor Andrew Paluch, associate professor of chemical, paper and bioengineering, in her sophomore year. As a “theoretical” chemical engineer,  Paluch’s work is computational-based and rooted in statistical thermodynamics. “This is a lot for an undergraduate to grasp,” he said. But “Rachel was able to very quickly reach the level of understanding necessary."

Ollier's research project involves predicting the solubility of pharmaceutical solids, Paluch said."She has made great progress, and we are currently preparing two manuscripts for submission to the Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data,” he said. 

Ollier has also been working with Paluch on the SAMPL6 challenge — a yearly challenge from the computer-aided drug discovery community. Researchers are provided with chemical structures of novel, drug-like compounds and asked to compute specific properties, Paluch said. Entries are submitted from around the world with the hope of making the top predictions. "Rachel has been working on SAMPL with me as a colleague and equal." Paluch said. "Our submission involves a combination of statistical thermodynamics with 'big data,' cheminformatics and machine learning. Rachel has kept up with me the entire process,” he said. 

Ollier was selected as a Miami Undergraduate Research Scholar last summer.  This summer she is one of 10 students selected for the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute.

She is a member of the Miami University Stamps Scholars, the Miami chapter of AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineering) and the Engineering Honors Fraternity Tau Beta Pi. She volunteers as a tutor at the Hamilton Boys and Girls Club and participates in Miami’s club rugby and intramural soccer and broomball.

She plans to pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering after graduating from Miami in 2020.

Rosie Ries: Geology and physics double major 


Rosie Ries (photo by Scott Kissell)

Ries, from Centerville, began undergraduate research her first year at Miami with mentor Mike Brudzinski, professor of geology and environmental earth science, after meeting him at a physics seminar. She has been part of his team researching earthquakes induced by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Oklahoma, an area of interest to both scientists and the public.

“Rosie is likely the most talented undergraduate I have worked with in my 25 years as a seismologist,” Brudzinski said. “She exemplifies a couple of the hardest things to teach students to be great scientists: determination and thoroughness."

"These skills are critical for completing a rigorous scientific study that is worthy of publication, so it's no surprise that she is already a very successful scientist with a bright future,” he said. 

Ries is a co-author on a paper published in a well-respected peer-reviewed journal. This past fall she was selected to give oral presentations on her research at the national conferences of the Geology Society of America and of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

The AGU rarely has undergraduates presenting, according to Brudzinski. She is working on another project evaluating the different factors and operational parameters that lead to the increased likelihood of hydraulic fracturing causing felt earthquakes in Oklahoma. She is on track to be the first-author on a manuscript for this study, which will be important for industry operators and state regulators to use when deciding on best practices, Brudzinski said.

Ries was selected as a Miami Undergraduate Summer Scholar last summer. This summer she is one of about 10 students nationwide selected for the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Undergraduate Summer Research Program in Seismology, at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Her interest in geology was sparked in middle school as a member of her Science Olympiad team. A family road trip out West reinforced that interest. She now volunteers as a coach for the Science Olympiad team at her former middle school (Tower Heights).

She is a member of Miami’s geology club and Academic Team and is a leader of two groups on campus: president-elect of the Students with Disabilities Advisory Council and the Society of Physics Students. Ries is also a mentor for the physics mentors program. “Science is based on mentor-mentee relationships,” she said. “I have had great mentors (at Miami). Now I am doing my part to continue that cycle.”

She plans to pursue a doctorate in geophysics after graduating from Miami in 2020.

Ries is also a 2019 Goldwater Scholar.


Astronaut Scholarship Program

Astronaut Scholars must be nominated by a faculty member, be entering their junior or senior year at one of the 40 participating schools the foundation supports and demonstrate excellence in research and academics.

Miami’s office of the provost partners with the ASF to provide matching scholarship funds that allow a second Astronaut scholar to be named at Miami.

  • A member of the Astronaut Hall of Fame will visit Miami Oct. 2 to give a public lecture and recognize Ollier and Ries.