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FSU students take home prestigious NSF graduate fellowship

Three aspiring researchers from Florida State University have each brought home prestigious National Science Foundation fellowships for students conducting promising research.

Graduate students Jamie Wang of Taiwan and Joseph Pennington of Frederick, Maryland, along with Florida State senior Sean Freeman of Hebron, Kentucky, have received $34,000 stipends to help them conduct research and another $12,000 to cover educational expenses.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program supports students in technology, engineering and mathematics who are pursuing research-based graduate degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. Students can apply in their senior year of college or during the first two years of graduate study.

"We are thrilled for Jamie, Joe, and Sean, and are confident that the next three years of their fellowships will only be the beginning of their successful scientific careers," said Sarah Cox, assistant director of the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards.

Nationally, 16,000 students apply for the fellowship, and 2,000 receive award offers.

"It's the best you can ask for as a graduate student," said Wang, a graduate student in chemistry.

In addition to Freeman, Pennington and Wang, David Barsoum, who graduated in December 2014, also received the award. Seven students also received honorable mentions for their applications.

"We are very proud of all FSU students who submitted applications for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, and we hope that writing their applications was a productive experience regardless of the award outcome," said Craig Filar, director of the Office of National Fellowships. "Writing applications for nationally competitive fellowships allows individuals outside of our university to recognize the important work that is being done here at Florida State."

The prize is highly coveted by graduate students because it gives students the flexibility to focus solely on research, while many of their fellow students are trying to balance teaching loads with research responsibilities.

Pennington, who studies with Assistant Professor Elizabeth Stroupe, is focusing on the finer details of how molecules are metabolized in bacteria. He said he still wants to get the experience of teaching, but the grant money will allow him to immediately pursue research and teach when he feels he is ready.

"It lets me do it on my terms," he said.

Freeman is in a slightly different position than Pennington and Wang. He is a senior at Florida State studying hurricanes, and next year, he will go to Colorado State University where he will study storm modeling.

Freeman acknowledged he didn't even think he would win the fellowship, but wanted the experience of applying because the NSF typically provides feedback on rejected applications. He figured he could use that information to build a stronger application next year.

"I've been working on research since I got here," Freeman said. "It really helped me figure out what I wanted to do and where I can go. And this fellowship gives me a way to go do that."

For more information on this and other awards, visit the Office of National Fellowships or the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards.

By Kathleen Haughney
16 April 2015

 
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