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NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Recognizes 13 UK Students, Alums

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

The University of Kentucky Office of Nationally Competitive Awards has announced that 10 students and recent graduates have been selected to receive government-funded National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships. In addition, a UK doctoral student and two alumni received honorable mention recognition from the NSF. 

As part of the five-year fellowship, NSF Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees for a research-based master's or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) field. In 2022, the NSF awarded approximately 2,200 fellowships from an applicant pool of over 13,000.

UK’s newest NSF fellows and the areas of research they are pursuing are:

  • Thomas Chaney, a 2020 materials engineering and Lewis Honors College graduate from Tipp City, Ohio, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in materials science at University of Colorado Boulder;
  • Tyler Cultice, a 2021 computer engineering graduate from Springfield, Ohio, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in computer engineering at the University of Tennessee;
  • Daniel Kennedy, a 2021 mechanical engineering graduate from Villa Hills, Kentucky, who is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan;
  • Rollie Mills, a chemical engineering doctoral student from Lexington;
  • Samuel Moore, a 2019 kinesiology and topical major (statistical analysis and interpretation) graduate, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Duke University;
  • Trisha Nickerson, a 2020 chemical engineering and Lewis Honors College graduate from Oswego, Illinois, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at University of Colorado Boulder;
  • Alexandria Pete, a 2021 agricultural and medical biotechnology graduate from Lake Saint Louis, Missouri, who is studying plant biology at Harvard University;
  • Kent Pham, a plant and soil sciences doctoral student from Fullerton, California;
  • Madison Webb, a 2021 neuroscience, chemistry and Lewis Honors College graduate from Crescent Springs, Kentucky, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience at University of California Berkeley; and
  • Maya Woolfolk, a 2020 biology and Lewis Honors College graduate from Prospect, Kentucky, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in biology at Harvard University.

Three others with UK ties — one current doctoral student and two alumni — received honorable mention recognition from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Those recognized with an honorable mention were:

  • Angela Jones, a 2020 chemistry, biology and Lewis Honors College graduate, who is currently studying genetics at Duke University;
  • Claire Rowlands, a chemical engineering doctoral student; and
  • Alaina Smith, a 2019 biology graduate who is studying ecology.

The NSF GRFP is the country’s oldest graduate fellowship program directly supporting graduate students since 1952. GRFP is a critical program in NSF's overall strategy to develop a globally engaged workforce necessary to ensure the nation's leadership in advancing science and engineering research and innovation. A hallmark of GRFP is its contribution to increasing the diversity of the STEM workforce, including geographic distribution, as well as the participation of women, underrepresented populations, persons with disabilities and veterans.

The Office of Nationally Competitive Awards assists current UK undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni in applying for external scholarships and fellowships funded by sources (such as a nongovernment foundation or government agency) outside the university. These awards honor exceptional students across the nation. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to begin work with the office, housed in the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence, well in advance of the scholarship deadline. Staff is available for appointments to discuss opportunities.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.