Campus News

Thirteen UGA students and alumni awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Athens, Ga. – Thirteen University of Georgia students and alumni have won National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, one of the most prestigious and sought-after fellowships in the United States. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program provides master’s and doctoral students with up to $121,500 during a five-year period for research projects in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The same number of UGA students and alumni received the award last year, while the number of honorable mentions rose to 17, up from seven in the previous year.

Fellows often go on to play leading roles in the sciences. Notable recipients include U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and more than 30 Nobel Laureates.

The application review process is rigorous. This year, the program awarded 2,000 fellowships and 2,064 honorable mentions from a pool of more than 12,000 applicants. Many of the UGA awardees credited their acceptance into the program to their extensive research experience as undergraduates, plus supportive faculty and feedback from numerous sources on their proposed research. Some, like Amy Styer, applied more than once.

“Applying for the grant involved a long series of drafts and revisions based on comments from my research mentor, my parents, my collegeroommate, and anyone else I could get to read my proposal. I am extremely thankful for their time and candid input,” said Styer, a biochemistry major.

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

College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Doug Eudy, of New Melle, Mo., is a doctoral student in the UGA Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, where he also is a Presidential Graduate Fellow.Eudy is studying the genetic basis for salt tolerance in Seashore Paspalum, an economically important, salt-tolerant turfgrass. This was his second time applying for the fellowship.

Fourth-year Honors Program student Katy Riccione, of Kennesaw, Ga., graduated magna cum laude this year with a bachelor of science in biological engineering. She was a CURO Summer Research Fellow and also spent a summer conducting research at NYU’s Sackler School of Medicine. Katy will attend Duke University’s biomedical engineering doctoral program, where she will study the bacterial population dynamics and genetic factors contributing to antibiotic resistance.

College of Public Health

Muktha Natrajan, of Martinez, Ga., graduated with a bachelor of science in genetics and a master of public health in environmental health science. While at UGA, Natrajan was a four-year Foundation Fellow and also received the Goldwater Scholarship, the Udall Scholarship and the 2011 Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She plans to pursue a doctorate in clinical neuroscience at the University of Cambridge.

Franklin College of Arts and Science

>Jessica Mitchell, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., is pursuing a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology, where she will use yeast as a model organism to study a novel form of RNA interference against mobile genetic elements. Her research has implications for inhibiting HIV replication and understanding the function of non-coding RNAs in the human genome.

While earning her bachelor of science in genetics at UGA, Tulsi Patel, of Acworth, Ga., received a 2009 American Dream Fellowship from the Merage Foundation, which is awarded to academically outstanding undergraduates who are immigrants to the United States. She is currently working on a doctorate in genetics and developmentat Columbia University.

David Schaeffer, ofMidland, Mich., is pursuing a doctorate in cognitive neuroscience in the psychology department. Schaeffer will be using a type of neuroimaging called diffusion tensor imaging to look at changes in the neural structure of overweight children before and after an eight-month exercise intervention.

Amy Styer, of Philadelphia, Pa., also is pursuing a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology, where she studies the biochemical mechanisms by which an innate immune molecule,trypanosome lytic factor, can killthe parasite that causes the deadly disease commonly known as African SleepingSickness. This is Styer’s second time applying for the fellowship.

Stanley Underwood, of Cornelia, Ga., graduated from UGA magna cum laude with a degree in anthropology and now conducts graduate work in geography, where he studies health services inequalities of marginalized populations, particularly in relation to the activism of women of color and indigenous women.

As an undergraduate at Arizona State University, Amelia Villaseñor, of Phoenix, Ariz., traveled to Ethiopia and South Africa for anthropological field work. At UGA, she is pursuing a doctorate in physical anthropology, examining the paleoecology of eastern African hominin (ancient primates) sites for connections between climate change and human evolution. Villaseñor also is a recipient of a three-year Ford Foundation Fellowship.

Mark Wiest, of Rock Hall, Md.,also ispursuing a doctorate in anthropology, researching the impacts that state-level efforts to privatize natural resources have on commercial fishing communities in the Chesapeake Bay.This is Wiest’s second time applying for the fellowship.

Jessica Winek, of Brentwood, Tenn., earned a bachelor of science in biology at UGA. She is now a first-year graduate student in the University of Alabama’s cell, molecular and developmental biology program, where she is investigating how proteins related to spinal muscular atrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease are secreted from nerve cells.

Odum School of Ecology

A double-major in German and ecology while an undergraduate at UGA, Emily Dale Broder of Florence, Ala. graduated with high honors and received the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scholar distinction. She now is working toward a doctorate in ecology at Colorado State University. This was the second time she applied for the fellowship.

Terry College of Business

Jennifer Lee Claggett, of Winston-Salem, N.C., earned her undergraduate degree at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UGA, she is pursuing a doctorate in management information systems with a research focus on the complexfactors surrounding the adoption of telemedicine.

Honorable mention recipients may conduct research for a full year using the TeraGrid, the world’s largest connected group of high-performance computers. Honorable mention recipients studying at UGA are: Karen Allen, anthropology; Anastasia Bobilev, cognitive science, Britnie Rene Foutch, plant biology; Robert Dean Hardy anthropology; Adam Jaeger, statistics; Cody Luedtke, life sciences; Albert Mercurio, forest resources; Rachel Mahan, forest resources; Chase Mathews Mason, plant biology; Crystal Phillips, microbiology; Dara Satterfield, life sciences; andKristy Segal, ecology.

Five other honorable mention recipients attended UGA as undergraduates and now pursue graduate studies at other institutions: Mia Mattioli, biological engineering, Stanford University; Shelina Ramnarine, biology, Washington University; Matthew Schultz, genetics, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Rory Welsh, microbiology, Florida International University; and Angela Zachman, biological engineering, Vanderbilt University.

For more information on UGA’s Honors Program see For more information on CURO, see