In a rare and remarkable achievement, three University of Utah electrical and computer engineering students have been awarded highly competitive and prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowships. Connor Olsen, Elaine Wong, and Henry Crandall are among this year’s recipients of this coveted national award.

From left to right: Jacob George, Connor Olsen, Elaine Wong, Henry Crandall, and Benjamin Sanchez Terrones

These NSF Fellowships are national awards that recognize outstanding undergraduate and graduate students and aim to support the development of the students’ research projects and academic ventures. The three-year long fellowships provide an educational stipend as well as additional funds for research and travel expenses.


Elaine Wong is in her last year of her undergraduate degree, and will begin her Ph.D. in electrical engineering with the department this coming Fall while continuing her work with Professor Benjamin Sanchez Terrones in the Sanchez Research Lab. Her project and interests involve using machine learning to diagnose different diseases, with a specific focus on skin cancer currently.

“As an undergraduate student, I decided I really liked both electrical engineering and the medical field, so I wanted to combine those interests,” says Wong. “I worked in four different labs before deciding on this project; diagnosis issues hit close to home for me, and Benjamin not only understood the issues, but had a solution, so I wanted to get involved.”

“I’m really excited to continue pursuing my passions through my Ph.D. journey and can’t wait to see where I can take this project with this new funding. It is my hope to eventually expand the project to cover a wider range of diagnoses.”


Henry Crandall is in the second year of his Ph.D. program with the department working with Professor Benjamin Sanchez Terrones in the Sanchez Research Lab. His project is focused on measuring blood pressure without using the standard arm cuff by seeking to apply electricity to biological tissue.

“My passion is wearable health monitors such as the smart watches and smart rings you see widely adopted today,” says Crandall. “I am amazed by the healthcare insights you can gain from them, and I want to contribute to their continued development.”

“I’m thrilled to receive this award – funding like this is pivotal to graduate research, and it is usually very rare for graduate students to receive their own funding, so I am really grateful for this fellowship.”


Connor Olsen is in the second year of his Ph.D. program working in the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab with Professor Jacob George. Olsen’s work is focused on developing a smart watch intended to be used as an assistive and rehabilitative device for individuals who have experienced a stroke.

“The idea of our smart watch is that it can actually detect hand gestures to control a smart home environment,” says Olsen. “Essentially, the device measures the electrical signals in the muscles and combines that with a few other sensors in the watch to predict the hand gestures the user is making, and then it uses that information to control the lights, blinds, thermostat, speaker volume, etc.”

“This type of work is fulfilling because we are helping people – we are making devices that will improve people’s quality of life,” says Olsen. “I am very grateful to both the National Science Foundation for granting me this fellowship to continue this work, and to our professors for their mentorship in pursuing funding like this.”


The professors who mentored the three students, Benjamin Sanchez Terrones and Jacob George, were equally thrilled at the news. “This is a remarkable achievement for each of these three students and the department as a whole,” said Sanchez Terrones. “This award is a testament to their hard work and passion for their projects.”

George echoed these sentiments, adding that the fellowship would help the students further their research and make significant contributions to the field. “We are proud of Connor, Elaine, and Henry and look forward to seeing the impact they will make in the future,” he said.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is one of the most prestigious awards for University students in the United States, and the fact that three electrical and computer engineering students from the same university received the award is extremely rare and a testament to the strength of the program and the quality of the students and faculty involved.

Learn more about Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty research topics and discover ways to get involved in undergraduate research.