Whitney Hale


College: Undergraduate Education

Fifteen UK Students Win NSF Research Awards

Published: May 23, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 23, 2014) — The University of Kentucky Office of External Scholarships has announced 15 of the university's undergraduate and graduate students will be able to pursue research in their fields of study with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).


Three UK students have been selected to receive government-funded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. The fellowships will present the students with more than $100,000 to use toward research-based master's or doctoral degrees.


In addition, undergraduate research opportunities will be funded for 12 UK undergraduates through NSF-Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the U.S. and reinforces its diversity. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based graduate degrees in the U.S. and abroad. 


NSF fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $32,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees. They also are given opportunities for international research and professional development as well as the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.

UK’s newest NSF fellows are:

· Benjamin Currens, a graduate student studying Earth and environmental sciences;

· Josiah Hanna, a 2014 computer science and mathematics graduate; and

· Jacob Welch, a 2013 anthropology graduate.


Benjamin Currens, the son of James Currens, of Versailles, Ky., and Debra Rogers, of Harrodsburg, Ky., is a 2012 graduate of Cornell University. His NSF Graduate Research Fellowship will fund research on water quality and water scarcity issues.


"As global climate change continues I believe water issues will be exacerbated and likely emerge as an early problem," Currens said.


After completing his master's degree, Currens plans to pursue a Ph.D. and research in the Central Atlas Mountains in Morocco.


The son of David and Sarah Hanna, of Lexington, Josiah Hanna received bachelor's degrees in computer science and mathematics from UK May 10. A 2013 Astronaut Scholar and 2013 Goldwater Scholar, Hanna will use the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to fund artificial intelligence research in graduate school.


"The NSF Fellowship will completely fund my graduate school work for three years and also includes other opportunities such as internships and research abroad experiences," said Hanna, a Chellgren Fellow and UK Honors Program member.


Hanna plans to eventually pursue a doctoral degree in computer science with a focus on artificial intelligence.


A native of Richmond, Ky., Jacob Welch is the son of Jeff and Marcia Welch, of Knoxville, Tenn. A Chellgren Fellow and former member of the UK Honors Program, Welch earned his bachelor's degree from UK in December 2013. He will use his NSF Graduate Research Fellowship as part of his graduate studies at Yale Univesity where his research will focus on commoner social universe.


"I assert that through studies of multi-household social units in Mesoamerican society and the interactions of commoners at various scales, archaeology will produce a more representative image of the Mesoamerican past," said Welch, who is hoping to advance his previous research findings on settlement patterns of the ancient Maya site Chunchucmil.


Four other UK students received honorable mention recognition from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. They are: Mirza Agha, a graduate student in forestry, from Kirkland, Wash.; Robert DeJaco, a 2014 chemical engineering graduate from Dublin, Ohio; Tyler Flynn, a 2014 mechanical engineering and physics graduate and Chellgren Fellow from Lexington; and Tyler Huber, a pharmacy student from Orlando, Fla.


The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is the country’s oldest graduate fellowship program directly supporting graduate students in social science and various STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Since 1952, NSF has funded 48,500 Graduate Research Fellowships. More than 30 fellowship recipients have become Nobel laureates. In addition, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program has a high rate of doctoral degree completion, with more than 70 percent of students completing doctorates within 11 years.


NSF also funds a large number of research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU Sites program. An REU Site consists of a group of approximately 10 undergraduates who work in the research programs of the host institution. Each student is associated with a specific research project, where he/she works closely with the faculty and other researchers. Throughout the NSF-REU program, students are granted stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel.


UK's recipients of the NSF-REU are:

· Robert Cass, a mathematics senior;

· Evan Castle, an electrical engineering and mathematics senior;

· Steven Chapman, a chemistry junior;

· Paige Clark, a chemical engineering junior;

· Jonathan Coburn, a chemical engineering junior;

· Andrea Eastes, an agricultural biotechnology and chemistry senior;

· Jonathan Elliott, an economics and mathematics senior;

· Matthew Fahrbach, a computer science and mathematics junior;

· Jordan Jorgensen, a computer science and mathematics senior;

· Sarah Patterson, a chemical engineering junior;

· Kimberly Stevens, a chemistry student in UK and Bluegrass Community and Technical College's BCTCblue+ program, who plans to eventually transfer to UK; and

· Emily VanMeter, a political science and French senior.


Chellgren Fellow and Honors Program member Robert Cass is the son of Valerie and Wayne Cass, of Lexington. He will participate in the NSF-REU on number theory at Texas A&M University. Previously, Cass took part in the 2013 NSF-REU on computational algebraic geometry, combinatorics and number theory at Clemson University.


Evan Castle is the son of Ruth and Scott Castle, of Lexington. He will participate in an NSF-REU on complex analysis at Central Michigan University.


Chellgren Fellow and Honors Program member Steven Chapman is the son of Donna and Jeff Chapman, of Hopkinsville, Ky. He will participate in an NSF-REU on chemistry at Penn State University.


Paige Clark is the daughter of Joe and Karen Clark, of Bardstown, Ky. She will remain close to home participating in the NSF-REU on engineered bioactive interfaces and devices at UK led by Kim Anderson, the Gill Eminent Professor of Chemical Engineering at UK College of Engineering.


Honors Program member Jonathan Coburn is the son of Cathy and Thomas Coburn, of Nicholasville, Ky. He will also participate in the NSF-REU on engineered bioactive interfaces and devices at UK.


Chellgren Fellow Andrea Eastes is the daughter of Chrissy and Jeff Eastes, of Mayfield, Ky. She will participate in an NSF-REU on molecular biosciences at University of California, San Francisco.


Chellgren Fellow and Honors Program member Jonathan Elliott is the son of Michael and Yvonne Elliott, of Grand Rapids, Mich. He will participate in an NSF-REU studying the economic impact of climate change in the Great Basin/Sierra Nevada region of the U.S. at the University of Nevada, Reno and the Great Basin Institute.


Chellgren Fellow Matthew Fahrbach is the son of Diane and Michael Fahrbach, of Louisville, Ky. Fahrbach will participate for the second year in an NSF-REU on mathematics at University of Washington.


Chellgren Fellow Jordan Jorgensen is the son of Angela and Joseph Jorgensen of Louisville. He will participate in an NSF-REU on parallel computer programming at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Sarah Patterson is the daughter of Beth and Charles Patterson, of Springfield, Ohio. She will participate in UK's NSF-REU on engineered bioactive interfaces and devices.


Kimberly Stevens is the daughter of Danny and Susan Stevens, of Frankfort, Ky. Stevens will also participate in the NSF-REU on engineered bioactive interfaces and devices at UK.


Chellgren Fellow Emily VanMeter is the daughter of Darrell and Valerie VanMeter, of Benton, Ky. She will participate in an NSF-REU on civil conflict management and peace science at University of North Texas.


Students interested in applying for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship or the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates should contact Pat Whitlow, director of the UK Office of External Scholarships (OES). Part of the Academy of Undergraduate Excellence within the Division of Undergraduate Education, OES 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 major awards honor exceptional students across the nation. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to begin work with OES well in advance of the scholarship deadline.




MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716; whitney.hale@uky.edu

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