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Students earn coveted National Science Foundation fellowships to pursue research

Students earn coveted National Science Foundation fellowships to pursue research

APRIL 20, 2021 — An impressive 11 UTSA students and alumni were among a select group to receive a prominent award to advance their graduate research education.

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports students with outstanding potential as future science, technology, engineering, and math research leaders, and who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited institutions.

UTSA’s newest award recipients are:

  • Jennifer Brett, cultural anthropology
  • Pete Gueldner ’20, biomedical engineering
  • Kennedy Howland, biomedical engineering
  • Morgan Johnston, neuroscience
  • Elysa Jui ’20, biomedical engineering
  • Daniel Martinez, chemistry
  • Favour Obuseh, biomedical engineering
  • Daisy Paredes, cultural anthropology
  • Cynthia Perez ’19, biomedical engineering
  • Christian Strong, chemical engineering
  • Kaitlyn Varela ’20, chemistry

Addtionally, Naomi Alyafei, Talha Khan and Joshua Ramirez received honorable mentions.

The prestigious fellowship provides the recipients various benefits such as three years of financial support, an annual stipend of $34,000, and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the institution they’re attending, to name a few.

Being selected for the NSF Fellowship is no simple task. Applicants are required to produce two original essays: a Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement; the other being a Graduate Research Plan Statement. The students also submit three letters of recommendation by a national panel of engineering and science faculty. Next, the applicants are reviewed for success in their careers. The students also must demonstrate the ability to develop a strong research plan, succeed with their graduate study, and have broad impacts on society. Only 15% of applicants are chosen to receive the fellowships.

“These are highly competitive fellowships,” said Eric Brey, UTSA Edward E. Whitacre, Jr. Endowed Chair of Biomedical Engineering. “They are the oldest graduate fellowships and select students who are expected to be lifelong leaders in their field.”

With these fellowships, the students are set to pursue doctoral degrees at a variety of universities.

“Many haven’t made their final decisions but they will end up at some amazing places like Cal Tech, Rice, MIT and Stanford,” Brey said. 

Favour Obuseh

There, the students will participate in high-level research and perform outreach to have a broader influence on the community by increasing science understanding, education and impact.

When asked what led him to apply for the NSF Fellowship, Favour Obuseh replied that he had heard about it through UTSA’s Maximizing Access to Research Careers – Undergraduate Student Training and Academic Research (MARC-U*STAR) program. Through MARC-U*STAR, Obuseh had participated in seminars that emphasized the importance of NSF GRFP awards.

“It was crazy when I got the email,” Obuseh said. “I was filled with joy and excitement knowing that I was recognized as a student with research potential and promise.”

Obuseh went on to explain that his future goal is to contribute to the field of tissue engineering and biomaterials through research innovations.

“I have a short-term goal of completing a successful and transformative Ph.D.,” Obuseh said. “The NSF award allows me a greater degree of freedom with choosing a lab for my Ph.D.”

Kennedy Howland

Kennedy Howland said she was encouraged by mentor Francisca Acosta, an alumna of UTSA’s biomedical engineering graduate program, to pursue the NSF Fellowship and now that she’s received it, she says it’s going to make a big difference in her life.

“I am honored to have been selected for this fellowship and to me it represents an acknowledgement of the hard work and research I have participated in throughout my undergraduate career at UTSA,” Howland said. “I plan to pursue a career in biomedical research and I plan to always be involved in STEM outreach. The resources associated with this NSF Fellowship will undoubtedly help me reach these goals.”

Bruce Forey and Breannah Ruesga



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The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

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