Awarded from one of the world’s oldest fellowship programs for women
WASHINGTON — The American Association of University Women (AAUW) awarded a 2017–18 AAUW American Fellowship to Melissa C. Richards. She is a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering at Clarkson University.
American Fellowships, AAUW’s largest funding program, date back to 1888, making them one of the oldest and most prestigious fellowship programs in the world exclusively for women. AAUW American Fellowships support women scholars who are completing doctoral dissertations, conducting postdoctoral research, or finishing research for publication.
Richards, who received her associate's degree in engineering science at Nassau Community College, and both her bachelor of science and master of science degrees in mechanical engineering from Clarkson, spent a year teaching English in China before beginning her doctoral studies.
Her research focuses on the constitutive modeling of rock, which involves understanding the composition of rocks and how they react to pressure. Constitutive frameworks are essential in addressing issues such as climate change and natural disaster readiness and resilience. With the financial support from this fellowship, she is on track to finish her dissertation and graduate in May 2018.
“That will make me the first African-American female to graduate from Clarkson University with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering,” she said.
Raised in a large family on Long Island, Richards has Jamaican roots and credits her strong family ties to her success so far. “Someone’s sweat, blood, and tears made it possible for me to be where I am today. I can never forget all the people who have helped me along the way,” she said.
Committed to gender equity, Richards strives to promote science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education for girls and has been active in Clarkson's Horizons program. This program helps young women embrace the excitement of these fields to better understand and communicate their importance through fun, challenging, and culturally relevant hands-on projects.
Richards, who believes engineering concepts are a perfect introduction to life skills, says, “We are pressure vessels. For example, young people face pressure every day whether it is peer, school, family, or internal pressures. You don't want to explode or implode -- you need to have balance.”
Much like her doctoral studies of understanding the composition of rock to create better constitutive frameworks, Richards is dedicated to helping young women identify the pressures they face, and empower them towards their own positive change.
Her studies and her work with young people have both been very rewarding, she said. “You need to do your part but realize other people are there to help you.”
“AAUW American Fellows go on to do great things. Several have served as college or university presidents. Others have blazed new trails. I’m just in awe of them,” said Gloria Blackwell, AAUW vice president of fellowships, grants, and global programs. “AAUW is proud to award these prestigious fellowships to our newest class of scholars.”
For the 2017–18 academic year AAUW awarded a total of $3.7 million through six fellowships and grants programs to 250 scholars, research projects, and programs promoting education and equity for women and girls. AAUW is one of the world’s leading supporters of graduate women’s education, having awarded more than $100 million in fellowships, grants, and awards to 12,000 women from more than 140 countries since 1888.
Read AAUW’s announcement about this year’s awards. To find out more about this year’s exceptional class of awardees, visit the online directory. To reach an award recipient, call 202.728.7602 or email email@example.com.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) empowers women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. Our nonpartisan, nonprofit organization has more than 170,000 members and supporters across the United States, as well as 1,000 local branches and more than 800 college and university members. Since AAUW’s founding in 1881, our members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political. Learn more and join us at www.aauw.org.