Campus News

Ten NSF Graduate Research Fellowships awarded to UGA students and alumni

Athens, Ga. – Ten University of Georgia students and alumni received graduate research fellowships this spring from the National Science Foundation to conduct research during their master’s and doctoral studies. The NSF fellowships are among the most sought-after in the United States. The awards provide students with up to $126,000 during a five-year period for research in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Sixteen students and alumni also received honorable mentions.

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

College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Athens, Ga., native Christine Akoh will graduate this spring with a bachelor of science in agriculture in food science. After graduation, she will pursue a doctorate in human nutrition at Cornell University. Akoh is a 2010 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship recipient and a member of the UGA Honors Program. Her project seeks to increase the amount of bioavailable iron normally consumed by pregnant women to improve their iron absorption.

As an undergraduate, Ariel Chan of Lawrenceville, Ga., majored in food science and technology. She was a member of the UGA Honors Program, and conducted research through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities at UGA’s Center for Applied Genetic Technology. She plans to earn a master’s degree in plant breeding and genetics from Cornell University. Her research proposal focused on the biocontainment of genetically modified plants.

Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Christopher Abin, of Miami, Fla., is pursuing a doctorate in microbiology at the University of Georgia. As a Florida International University undergraduate student, Abin made the dean’s list every semester and received a National Institutes of Health Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement Fellowship. He will be studying microbes that survive in high saline and heavy metal habitats to see how they transform toxic compounds. His research may eventually help bioremediation of heavy-metal contaminated sites worldwide, and may also provide insight into life on other planets.

While an undergraduate student at UGA, Ashley Edwards, a computer science major from Conyers, Ga., presented a research paper on machine learning at an international symposium held in Paris by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest association for professionals in those fields. She is now pursuing a doctorate in robotics at Georgia Technical Institute, with an emphasis on artificial intelligence and machine learning. Edwards’ research project will allow multiple people to train a robot by interacting with a virtual representation of it.

Katie Orlemanski, of Lilburn, Ga., received her undergraduate degree in women’s studies and international affairs from UGA in 2007. Since then she has worked in Africa for an international development agency and now plans to pursue a doctorate in cultural anthropology at Rutgers University. Her research focuses on understanding violence against women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Matthew Schultz, of Roswell, Ga., majored in genetics at UGA and is now pursuing a doctoral degree in biomedical sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Schultz is studying how carbohydrate structures in cells affect, and possibly regulate, protein function. He received an honorable mention last year.

Odum School of Ecology

Senior Eric Goolsby, of Macon, Ga., will graduate in May 2012 with a bachelor of science in biology and a minor in environmental health science. He will pursue a doctorate in toxicology ecology. Like Abin, Goolsby is interested in organisms that have evolved mechanisms to deal with high levels of toxic metals. Goolsby will study the evolution of metal-accumulating plants called hyperaccumulators and the possible reasons behind their development.

A double-major in ecology and biology while an undergraduate student at UGA, Amanda Perofsky, of Macon, Ga., graduated with highest honors and a CURO Scholar distinction. Perofsky worked for two years as a post-baccalaureate research fellow at the National Institutes of Health. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in ecology, evolution and behavior at the University of Texas at Austin. For her project, Perofsky is using mathematical models to investigate how social behavior impacts infectious disease transmission in wild lemurs.

Dara Satterfield, of Marietta, Ga., graduated summa cum laude from Agnes Scott College and is pursuing a doctoral degree in ecology at UGA. Her project will study how altered animal migration may affect infectious disease levels in wildlife, as evidenced in migrating monarch butterflies.

As a doctoral student in ecology at UGA, Troy Simon of Sanibel Island, Fla., is already part of a large-scale, $5 million National Science Foundation collaborative research project to study the effects of rapid species evolution on ecosystems. Simon’s Fellowship project investigates the effect of the introduction and evolution of the guppy, Poecilia reticulata, on headwater stream life in Trinidad.

Honorable Mention

Honorable mention recipients do not receive a stipend, but may conduct research for a full year using the TeraGrid, the world’s largest connected group of high-performance computers. Honorable mention students attending UGA are: Jacquelyn Freeman, organismal biology; Jennifer Hamlin, evolutionary biology; Arlana Henry, sociology; John Kimbrough, microbiology; Israel Scott, biochemistry; Chelsea Cunard and Uma Jyothi Nagendra, plant biology; and Douglas Terry, neuropsychology; all in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Two honorable mention recipients attending the Odum School of Ecology include: Andrea Ayala and Sarah Bowden. Albert Mecurio, wildlife ecology, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, also received an honorable mention.

Honorable mention students who earned bachelor degrees at UGA and are earning graduate degrees elsewhere are: Brett Bailey, ecology, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Benjamin Carter, evolutionary biology, Syracuse University; Sierra Julia Castedo-Rodgers, biological anthropology, University of Texas at Austin; and Kao-Wei Chua, cognitive psychology, Vanderbilt University.