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Four students in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Arts and Sciences and Tickle College of Engineering have been selected for the National Science Foundation’s 2021 Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Fellowship recipients are seniors Jackson Spurling and Jacob Summers, December 2020 graduate Erica Waters, and graduate student Maryrose Weatherton.

Spurling, of Norris, Tennessee, graduates in May with a degree in materials science and engineering. Spurling performs research across a wide range of materials and applications linked by advanced technologies. Spurling will continue his research in the materials science and engineering doctorate program at Pennsylvania State University.

Summers, of Pleasant Shade, Tennessee, graduates in May with a degree in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. His research aims to use structural biology and biochemical methods to uncover the evolutionary divergence of collagen IV proteins among eukaryotes.

Waters, of Maryville, Tennessee, graduated last fall with a degree in mechanical engineering. She is researching rehabilitation and assistive robotics to help individuals with disabilities.

Weatherton, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a PhD student in ecology and evolutionary biology. Her research examines aspects of the graduate student experience and equity within higher education.

In addition, six UT students received honorable mentions:

  • Promise Adebayo-Ige, nuclear engineering
  • Jordan Cannon, microbiology
  • Marcus Harrell, biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology
  • Peyton Hickman, microbiology
  • Amy Luo, ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Conner Whitten, psychology

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields who are pursuing research-based graduate degrees. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the program has a history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success academically and professionally.

Since 1952, NSF has funded more than 60,000 Graduate Research Fellowships among more than 500,000 applicants. Currently, 42 Fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates, and more than 450 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Rising seniors intending to apply for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship should contact UT’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. Graduate students are encouraged to work with their departmental supervisors and the Graduate School.


Jen Roder (865-974-2152,