For DonorsFor Applicants

Dr. Andy Nieto Memorial First Generation Opportunity and Excellence Scholarship

1 winner$1,200
Application Deadline
Sep 12, 2024
Winners Announced
Oct 12, 2024
Education Level
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
3.5 or higher
Education Level:
Undergraduate student
Field of Study:
First-generation college student

Dr. Andy Nieto was a beloved brother who passed away too soon.

Dr. Nieto was an FIU MME alumnus where he received the prestigious Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award in 2013 for his pioneering works on graphene reinforced ceramic matrix composites. After FIU, he earned his doctorate in materials science and engineering from the University of California, Davis in 2016 and thereafter conducted his postdoctoral research as an ORAU fellow at the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) prior to working as an Assistant Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey. Dr. Nieto was also the recipient of the prestigious ONR-Young Investigator Award in 2021. He was a brilliant scientist whose legacy continues with his exemplary research in the field of materials science and engineering including nanostructured carbon reinforced composites, nano-mechanics, sand-phobic thermal/environmental barrier coatings, nanocomposites, and additive processing. In addition to his scholarly contributions, Dr. Nieto will be remembered by the profound impact he had on his students and the devotion he had for his family. He is survived by his wife Richa Agrawal, his parents Hernando and Janeth Nieto, and his brother and sister-in-law Hernando Nieto Jr and Lindsey Nieto.

This scholarship seeks to honor the life of Dr. Andy Nieto by supporting first-generation students in their pursuit of higher education.

Any first-generation undergraduate student who has at least a 3.5 GPA and is pursuing engineering may apply for this scholarship, but students pursuing material science are preferred.

To apply, submit a 800-1000 word essay OR a short video describing the importance of being a first-generation college student, your desire to pursue an engineering degree, and what this opportunity means to you.

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Drive, Impact
Published May 31, 2024
Essay Topic

Describe the importance of being a first-generation college student, your desire to pursue an engineering degree, and what this opportunity means to you. Be sure to make a compelling connection to the impact of being a first-generation student, your family journey, the impact of advanced education, what got you interested in engineering, and your interest in Material Science (if applicable).

800–1000 words

Winning Application

Simon Salazar-Marin
College of CharlestonCharleston, SC
Dr. Andy Nieto was more than just a brilliant scientist; he was a beacon of inspiration, a paragon of academic achievement, and a beloved brother whose memory continues to resonate within the realms of materials science and engineering. As a first-generation student raised in a marginalized town in Colombia, my journey to pursue higher education in engineering mirrors the determination and passion that defined Dr. Nieto's life. With unwavering resolve and a deep connection to my roots, I stand on the threshold of my aspirations, driven not only by personal ambition but also by a burning desire to honor the legacy of a remarkable individual. That personal ambition brought me the opportunity to come to the United States on a journey of my own and pursue the future that my parents wanted me to have but the circumstances didn't let it be so. In my formative years, I found myself immersed in a world of adversity, marked by political upheavals and economic challenges. These circumstances ignited a fervent longing for change, compelling me to seek a path that would lead me toward a future where I could make a meaningful impact. Driven by my love for reading and coding, I embarked on a transformative journey that eventually led me to the United States, away from the coups and chaos that had plagued my homeland. My journey mirrors Dr. Nieto's in its pursuit of knowledge and progress, albeit in a different field. With a heart full of hope and a mind eager to learn, I delved into the world of engineering. The realms of possibilities that engineering offered resonated deeply with my aspirations to contribute to my marginalized community. Every equation I solved and every concept I grasped became a step towards realizing my dream job: one that enables me to uplift and support the very community that shaped my earliest experiences. This dream encapsulates the essence of Dr. Nieto's legacy, as he not only excelled in his academic pursuits but also touched the lives of his students and family through his dedication and compassion. As a student who has achieved a GPA of over 3.5, I align with the academic excellence that Dr. Nieto embodied. However, what truly draws me to his story is his connection to first-generation students. Dr. Nieto's journey from his roots to becoming an esteemed alumnus of FIU and a respected scholar resonates with my own experiences. Being a first-generation college student comes with its unique set of challenges, but it also carries the power to break generational barriers and set an example for those who will follow. The field of material science holds a special place in my heart, primarily because of its potential to transform industries and solve real-world problems. Just as Dr. Nieto's pioneering research on graphene reinforced ceramic matrix composites pushed the boundaries of possibility, I am drawn to material science for its capacity to innovate and reshape our world. My enrollment in the CS50 course from Harvard and the acquisition of certificates from a polytechnic university in Colombia attest to my dedication to this field, underscoring my alignment with Dr. Nieto's passion for groundbreaking research. This scholarship, in a certain way, serves as a bridge between his legacy and my aspirations. It is not just a financial support system; it symbolizes the passing of a torch from a brilliant scientist to an eager first-generation student. As I stand at this crossroads, I am profoundly aware of the responsibility that comes with being a recipient of such an honor. It is not just about pursuing an engineering degree; it is about embracing the opportunity to learn, grow, and ultimately give back. The importance of being a first-generation college student cannot be understated. It signifies a journey of breaking molds, shattering limitations, and paving the way for future generations. Dr. Nieto's story reminds us that the pursuit of knowledge is a noble endeavor, one that transcends boundaries and shapes destinies. His legacy ignites a fire within me to continue pushing forward, to excel not only for my own advancement but also to carry his legacy forward in the field of engineering and material science. In conclusion, my journey from a marginalized town in Colombia to pursuing an engineering degree is interwoven with the essence of Dr. Andy Nieto's life. The challenges, dreams, and aspirations that have defined my path echo the spirit of a brilliant scientist who left an indelible mark on his field and his students. This scholarship is more than just financial assistance; it is an affirmation of my potential, a validation of my dedication, and a connection to a legacy that embodies excellence and compassion. As I forge ahead in my pursuit of higher education, I do so with profound gratitude for the opportunity to honor Dr. Nieto's memory and to continue the narrative he has woven into the fabric of materials science and engineering.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Sep 12, 2024. Winners will be announced on Oct 12, 2024.