Student and Academic Life

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Recognizes 12 UK Students, Alums

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headshot photo of Rachel Boone
headshot photo of Rebekah Eleazer
photo of Kathryn Greene holding animal
heashot photo of Lauren Mehanna
photo of Ashley Taylor Stevens in labcoat in lab
photo of Ava Vargason in front of Beard Hall
headshot photo of Stephen Wright

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 11, 2019) The University of Kentucky Office of Nationally Competitive Awards has announced that seven doctoral students and alumni have been selected to receive government-funded National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships. In addition, five other UK students received honorable mention recognition from the NSF. 

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. Annually, the NSF awards approximately 1,500 fellowships from an applicant pool of over 12,000.

"Receiving a GRFP award from NSF is an incredible honor," NSF Fellow Lauren Mehanna said. "The GRFP gives me more independence with my research project, as I will not have to rely on outside funding for support. It also gives me access to numerous other resources provided by NSF. I am looking forward to guiding my own research project in the direction of where my interests take me that hopefully will lead to significant discoveries in the chemical and biomedical engineering realms."

NSF GRFP recipient Rebekah Eleazer is also excited for the opportunities the fellowship will afford her. "This award enables me to conduct my graduate research by covering my cost of education and stipend. It will also provide paid opportunities to collaborate and conduct research with experts abroad, as well as provide internship opportunities in federal agencies."

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

  • Rachel Boone, a 2019 UK chemical engineering graduate from Stanton, Kentucky, who will pursue research in chemical engineering at Vanderbilt University;
  • Rebekah Eleazer, a doctoral student from Lexington, pursuing research in molecular and cellular biochemistry research at UK;
  • Kathryn Greene, a doctoral student from St. Augustine, Florida, pursuing biology research at UK;
  • Lauren Mehanna, a doctoral student from Lexington, pursuing research in chemical engineering at UK;
  • Ashley Taylor Stevens, a doctoral student from Frankfort, Kentucky, pursuing research in molecular and cellular biochemistry at UK;
  • Ava Vargason, a 2017 UK chemical engineering graduate, Lewis Honors College member  and Chellgren Fellow from Iowa City, Iowa, pursuing research in pharmaceutical sciences at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and
  • Stephen Wright, a 2019 UK mechanical engineering graduate and Lewis Honors College member from Nicholasville, Kentucky, who will pursue research in aerospace engineering at University of Michigan.

And, at least one of the NSF GRFP recipients hopes her research will bring her back to her alma mater. "I would like to be a professor at the University of Kentucky! UK has given me so much for the past six years, and I look forward to hopefully being able to give back to my home institution in the future by mentoring and teaching students while also performing research," said Ashley Taylor Stevens.

Five other UK students received honorable mention recognition from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The other students recognized were:

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 minorities, persons with disabilities and veterans.

UK students interested in the NSF GRFP may apply through the university's Office of Nationally Competitive Awards. Part of the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence within the Division of Student and Academic Life at UK, 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 major awards honor exceptional students across the nation. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to begin work with Pat Whitlow well in advance of the scholarship deadline.

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 two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for," 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 three 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.