15 UK students, alumni awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships


LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 27, 2023) — The University of Kentucky Office of Nationally Competitive Awards announced that 10 students and five alumni were selected to receive government-funded National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships. In addition, one graduate student and one alumna received honorable mention recognition from the NSF.

As part of the five-year fellowship, NSF Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $37,000 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.

The 10 students awarded fellowships are: 

  • Beatrice Abbott, a geography master’s student from Lexington
  • Daniel Dailey, a chemical engineering, mathematics and Lewis Honors College senior from Paris, Kentucky, who will pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering at Columbia University
  • Wade Pike, an entomology master’s student from Greensburg, Kentucky
  • Steven Poore, an electrical engineering senior from Middlesboro, Kentucky, who will pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering
  • Ryan Sarhan, an employee in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who will pursue graduate studies in biosystems engineering
  • Krystal Sewell, a pharmacology and nutritional sciences doctoral student from Lexington
  • Parker Sornberger, a chemistry senior and 2022 mathematics graduate from Frankfort, Kentucky, who will pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Rochester
  • Alexander Stewart, an agricultural and medical biotechnology, biology and Lewis Honors College senior from Clearfield, Kentucky, who will pursue a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona
  • Heather Thompson, a biomedical engineering doctoral student from Jackson, Kentucky
  • Anastasia Weger, an entomology doctoral student from Austin, Texas.

The five alumni awarded fellowships are:

  • Dylan Baker, a 2020 psychology, economics, history, political science and Lewis Honors College graduate from Lexington, who will pursue a Ph.D. in economics at University of Chicago
  • Piper Cannon, a 2021 mathematics graduate from Owensboro, Kentucky, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University
  • Joseph Clark, a 2021 computer engineering and Lewis Honors College graduate from Charleston, West Virginia, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in computer engineering at University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Nicole Marguerite, a 2022 neuroscience, chemical engineering and Lewis Honors College graduate from Chicago, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Vanderbilt University
  • Laura Richardson, a 2021 chemical engineering graduate from Williamsburg, Kentucky, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Vanderbilt University

Additionally, Alexis Gauger, an entomology graduate student from Tacoma, Washington, and Sydney Litterer, a 2019 mechanical engineering and Lewis Honors College graduate from Manchester, Iowa, received honorable mention recognition from the NSF.

“Exceptional graduate students fuel leading-edge research at the University of Kentucky,” said UK Vice President for Research Lisa Cassis. “We congratulate these students and alumni for this recognition from the NSF, we thank their mentors who have invested in these future scientists, and we look forward to their work that will advance these diverse fields and improve lives in Kentucky and beyond.”

When asked about opportunities provided by the award, several of the new fellows acknowledged the flexibility that the funding will provide during their graduate education.

“This fellowship provides the resources to choose any direction for my research during graduate studies and gives me a platform to advocate for accessibility and inclusion in science,” Dailey said.

Thompson hopes to use her fellowship to address health disparities in Appalachia, the region she calls home. She will research critical issues within the areas of biomaterials and tissue engineering and expand her knowledge of how biomaterials can be used for tissue regeneration.

“I am excited at the prospect of one day collaborating with industry partners and health care providers to move treatments from bench top to clinic,” she said. “It also excites me to think about empowering and mentoring the next generation of engineers and scientists while improving medical technology to advance regenerative medicine with a specific emphasis on health disparities in Appalachia. I attribute all that I am to Appalachia and want my research to directly improve the quality of life for the people who have made me into the individual, researcher and engineer I am today.”

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.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.