Eight graduate students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, were recently awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.
The oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields and ensures the quality, vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The fellowship offers up to three years of financial support with an annual stipend of $34,000, and a cost of education allowance of $12,000 to the institution.
“UT’s graduate students are among the best in the world, and the growing number of NSF-GRFP recipients on our campus is evidence of the quality of our students,” said Dixie Thompson, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School. “These students bring excellent research ideas and a strong desire to push the boundaries of knowledge.”
As Tennessee’s premier public university, UT is drawing more students than ever to its highly regarded academic programs and research opportunities.
Meet the Recipients
Sydney Baldwin of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, earned her bachelor’s degree from UT in May 2023 and is a first-year graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Her research, focused on learning how the pollen quality of plants affects plant-pollinator interactions, involves growing sunflowers and modifying their pollen protein content with fertilizer before observing the behavior of pollinators at the sunflowers and measuring the number of seeds produced from those interactions.
Joseph Clark of Charleston, West Virginia, is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
His research is focused on quantum computing with a focus on the development of computer-aided design tools for quantum computing. He hopes to develop robust, novel and efficient quantum circuit synthesis tools to enable better use of both present and future quantum hardware.
Megan Elliott of Wichita, Kansas, is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education’s Genome Science and Technology graduate program.
Her research is focused on using mass spectrometry to understand the molecular functions of bacteria as they metabolize plants into biofuels. She aims to learn how the conversion happens on a molecular level and how to improve the efficiency of the biofuel production.
Ashlynn Hord of Oakley, California, is a master’s student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Her research is focused on understanding the ecological and evolutionary impact of genetic changes in plants in the context of climate change, using a naturally hybridizing cottonwood system in the Intermountain West as her case study.
Kyra Owensby of Nashville is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education and works in the Energy Storage and Conversion Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Her research is focused on solid-state lithium metal batteries which, once viable, will push the country one step closer to an electrified economy. She is specifically investigating the interface of polymer-lithium metal batteries to understand how to promote uniform lithium metal stripping and plating.
Zane Smith of Knoxville is a first-year Ph.D. student with the UT Institute of Agriculture.
His research is focused on the conservation of imperiled and endangered forest trees, primarily native ash trees in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He is exploring the trees’ genetic resistance to the invasive emerald ash borer as well as how environmental and genomic data can be integrated to better understand their ecological and evolutionary dynamics.
Brooke Smith of Cumming, Georgia, is a third-year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry.
Her research is focused on eliminating side effects that occur when therapeutics affect healthy cells, applying lab-synthesized organic compounds to biological systems in hopes that they can deliver cargo only to diseased cells.
Bryce Wade of Cincinnati, Ohio, received his bachelor’s degree from UT in May 2020 and is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education.
His research focuses on using cutting-edge methods in geographic information systems, genomics and simulation modeling to inform ecological conservation. Studying amphibians and reptiles, he aims to bridge the research-implementation gap and directly inform conservation management strategies.
Alumnus John Anderson of Lebanon, Tennessee, was also awarded a fellowship through the program. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UT in May and will begin working toward his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall.
UT seniors who intend to apply for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship should contact UT’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships at firstname.lastname@example.org. Graduate students are encouraged to work with their departmental supervisors.
Maggie Palmer (865-974-3993, email@example.com)
Alicia Reed (865-974-3653, firstname.lastname@example.org)