Senior Jennifer Coulter will study computational physics at Harvard University

Senior physics major Jennifer Coulter won a prestigious Goldwater scholarship last year.
Photo: Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center at MIT

Rutgers physics major Jennifer Coulter struck academic gold three times this year, winning some of America’s top science fellowships to study in graduate school.

They are a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship and a Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship.

Coulter, a senior honored with a prestigious Goldwater scholarship last year, chose the Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship. She will begin her studies in the applied physics program at Harvard University this fall and pursue a doctorate in physics.

“It would be very, very cool if I could someday become a physics professor at a university,” said Coulter, 21, who is from Manasquan, New Jersey. “That’s very hard to achieve, so I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. If I can perform well enough to keep doing research, that would make me happiest.”

Arthur D. Casciato, director of Rutgers’ Office of Distinguished Fellowships, said Coulter stands out among her peers. “Considering her Goldwater scholarship last year, Jenny is probably one of the most nationally recognized students in Rutgers’ history,” he said.

A Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship provides many benefits. They include:

  • a $36,000 a year stipend and full tuition and fees for up to four years at an accredited U.S. university
  • a $5,000 academic allowance in the first year and $1,000 in each of the following three years to purchase a computer workstation or to cover research and professional development expenses
  • 12 weeks at one of 21 Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories or sites, including access to DOE supercomputers
  • a rigorous program of study in a scientific or engineering discipline as well as computer science and applied mathematics
  • a program review in the Washington, D.C., area each summer

“In terms of networking and additional support, this fellowship can’t be beat,” Coulter said. She will take classes and do some research during the first two years of graduate school and focus on research during the last three or four years.

“Essentially, I will be using computational methods to tackle physics problems,” she said. “I will study methods to numerically solve difficult physics problems without analytical solutions. We take a class of very hard physics problems into problems that can be solved using supercomputers.”

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Coulter, who has a 3.99 GPA and is in the honors program, lives at Douglass Residential College and is heavily involved in Rutgers research. She has worked with Karin M. Rabe, Board of Governors professor of physics, and Professor Premi Chandra in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences. She has also been a research assistant to Dunbar Birnie, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the School of Engineering, and to Sevil Salur, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Coulter is also a part-time lecturer in the Analytical Physics II Lab in that department.

Last summer, she was a research assistant to Alfredo Alexander-Katz, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Coulter has also been busy outside of classes and labs. She is president and outreach coordinator in the Rutgers University Society of Physics Students. She’s a mentor and program co-coordinator for the Douglass Project for Rutgers Women in Math, Science and Engineering. She’s the student representative on the Rutgers Department of Physics and Astronomy Undergraduate Studies Committee. And she won an American Physical Society grant to form Rutgers University Women in Physics and Astronomy, a group that she serves as undergraduate chair.

“I never expected to accomplish this much in physics,” said Coulter, who considered majoring in art before she took high school physics. “I just tried to do the best possible physics I could during my undergraduate years and it’s worked out well. I’m going to continue to do the best possible physics and give it everything I’ve got. I think I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to do that.”

For media inquiries, please contact science communicator Todd B. Bates at or 848-932-0550.