11 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships awarded to UGA students and alumni

Athens, Ga. – Eleven University of Georgia students and alumni received graduate research fellowships this spring from the National Science Foundation.

The program fellowships, which recognize and support outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, are among the most competitive in the United States. The NSF received more than 14,000 applications for the 2014 competition, and made 2,000 fellowship award offers.

This year’s Fellows are listed below in alphabetical order by unit.

Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Karson Brooks, of Dothan, Alabama, received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Alabama in 2013, and he is now working toward a graduate degree in UGA’s chemistry department. His research focuses on the modification of polymer brushes and brush systems. He would like to study these brush systems in different environments to understand how the system changes upon changes in the chemical environment and also using the system for possible biological applications, such as bimolecular patterning onto surfaces.

Michael Burel, of Acworth, Georgia, graduated from UGA in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in cellular biology and a certificate in interdisciplinary writing. Now a doctoral student in stem cell biology at the New York University School of Medicine, Burel is working to understand how a single, mutant stem cell can completely dominate and replace a pool of normal stem cells in tissues. This work has implications in designing stem cell therapies, and it may reveal how some cancers exploit mutations to hijack a stem cell pool and evade chemotherapy.

Emily Carpinone, of Tampa, Florida, joined UGA after earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in 2013. She is currently a first-year graduate student in the UGA microbiology department working toward a doctoral degree. Her research focuses on a protein called Vibrio outer protein Q. Using yeast as a model organism, Carpinone hopes to provide greater insight into a process called autophagy, which involves the segregation and disposal of damaged organelles within a cell.

Nicholas Kalivoda, of Athens, Georgia, graduated from UGA in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in linguistics. He is now a doctoral candidate in linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Kalivoda’s research focuses on the study of patterns in speech sounds, word order and their interconnections. He is currently doing fieldwork on Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec, an indigenous language of Mexico spoken in an area east of the city of Oaxaca.

Michael Lonneman, of Independence, Kentucky, earned his bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Louisville in 2011. He is currently in the second year of his doctoral program in UGA’s anthropology department. Lonneman’s research explores how households participating in agriculture in the Dominican Republic are responding to economic and environmental change, from sudden events such as hurricanes and commodity market fluctuations to longer-term processes such as drought.

Tatum Mortimer, of Waleska, Georgia, earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from UGA in 2012. She is now a second-year graduate student in the Microbiology Doctoral Training Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mortimer’s research focuses on the ecology and evolution of pathogenic bacteria, but she is particularly interested in mycobacterium tuberculosis, a bacterial species responsible for causing most cases of tuberculosis worldwide.

Addison Wright, of Marietta, Georgia, graduated from UGA in 2013 a double major in history and biochemistry and molecular biology. He is now pursuing a doctoral degree in the molecular and cell biology department at the University of California, Berkeley, where he plans to conduct research on a bacterial adaptive immune system known as CRISPR. Specifically, Wright would like to study the molecular mechanisms that provide immunity in the body to new threats.

Odum School of Ecology

Erin Abernethy, of Aiken, South Carolina, graduated with a biology degree from Appalachian State University in 2011. Abernethy is now a master’s student in the Odum School of Ecology, and she works frequently at UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. Her current research focuses on the ecology of scavenging-the act of feeding on dead animal and plant material-in island ecosystems. She is particularly interested in studying this behavior on the large island of Hawaii, where invasive plant and animal species may significantly alter the ecosystem.

Rachel Smith, of Chester, Virginia, came to UGA after earning a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Northwestern University. A first-year doctoral student in ecology, Smith’s research focuses on the structural, abiotic and biotic effects of organisms that create or significantly modify habitats. She uses the expansion of subtropical black mangrove into temperate Florida salt marshes as a model system.

Allison Williams, of Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, earned an undergraduate degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University in 2009. She is now a doctoral student in UGA’s Odum School of Ecology, where her research focuses on the effects of social connectivity on gut microbial transmission and how this affects pathogen defense. Williams uses the highly social Grant’s gazelle in East Africa as a model study system, and she hopes her work will broaden the understanding of the evolution of animal behavior.

School of Public and International Affairs

Lauren Pinson, of Watkinsville, Georgia, graduated from UGA in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and a master’s degree in public administration. She is now a doctoral candidate in the political science program at Yale University where she studies international relations and conflict. She also served as a senior research and project manager for the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.