CMU senior wins prestigious NSF fellowship

Dakota Keblbeck plans to pursue a career in physics research

| Author: Maureen Harke | Media Contact: Aaron Mills

Dakota Keblbeck, a senior from Standish, MI, has been awarded a prestigious fellowship from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship program.

Keblbeck said he took a risk when he uprooted his life to pursue a bachelor’s degree in physics at CMU.

“I quit my full-time job, moved to Mt. Pleasant and invested all my savings in pursuit of this degree. As a non-traditional, first-generation college student who had dabbled in a variety of community college courses, I was determined to succeed but I knew that I needed to surround myself with people who would help me to grow.” 

Keblbeck began working with Matt Redshaw, a faculty member in the Department of Physics, whose research introduced him to neutrinos. This fascinating particle will play a role in Keblbeck’s future career.

Dakota Keblbeck works with his faculty mentor, Matt Redshaw
Dakota Keblbeck, right, receives support from his faculty mentor, Matt Redshaw.


“We know very little about neutrinos, a particle so important to the universe. The next generation of neutrino physics will attempt to determine whether the neutrino is its own antiparticle, which could help explain why there is matter in the universe instead of nothing,” Keblbeck said. 

“I am very excited to be a part of this research, which has the potential to answer the question of why we are here. My future research will focus on novel searches for physics beyond the standard model and on next-generation neutrinoless double beta decay experiments to investigate the particle nature of the neutrino.”

Keblbeck also conducted research under the guidance of Katrina Piatek-Jimenez, a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics, exploring the impact of intersectionality on physics students’ experiences with the of goal improving inclusivity within the field. 

“In addition to building a career as a researcher, I plan on being a mentor who will intentionally work toward increasing outreach and inclusivity for historically underrepresented groups in STEM, particularly in physics,” Keblbeck said.

Keblbeck worked through the NSF-GRFP application process with his research mentor, Matt Redshaw, and Maureen Harke, director of the CMU National Scholarship Program. The five-year fellowship provides three years of financial support inclusive of an annual stipend of $37,000 and a $12,000 annual cost-of-education allowance to the student’s graduate institution.

Keblbeck said he is grateful for the support and encouragement he received from his research advisors and from the McNair Scholars Program, which helps first-generation and underrepresented students achieve their doctoral degrees.

Keblbeck will begin a Ph.D. in physics at the Colorado School of Mines this summer.

“After everything that I have gone through, and all the risks that I took to be here, receiving this fellowship is confirmation that all the effort and sacrifice was worth it. It also speaks to the fact that my past challenges do not dictate what I can achieve.”

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