CSU students selected for NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Collage image of NSF fellowship 2021 winners from CSU

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship recipients from CSU: (top left to right) Collin Brehmer, Morgan Crump, Daniel Dominguez, Kayl Ecton, (bottom left to right) Leidy Hooker, Darcy Hunstiger, Blythe Johnston and Andrew Paton. Winner Nicolas Matallana-Mejia is not pictured.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded one of the country’s top STEM fellowships to seven Colorado State University graduate students and two recent graduates.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports high-performing graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The nine CSU fellowship recipients include Collin Brehmer, Morgan Crump, Daniel Dominguez, Kayl Ecton, Leidy Hooker, Darcy Hunstiger, Blythe Johnston, Nicolas Matallana-Mejia and Andrew Paton.

The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support, including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost-of-education allowance of $12,000 to the institution. Since 2016, the NSF has awarded 41 Graduate Research Fellowships to CSU students.

The CSU Graduate School, the Office for Scholarship and Fellowship Advising, and the Office for Undergraduate Research and Artistry played a key role in the process.

“This is a prestigious fellowship for an exceptional group of scholars, and I congratulate all of them,” said Mary Stromberger, dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for graduate affairs. “We look forward to each student pursuing their graduate studies and to the impact they will make both in the STEM disciplines and to society.”

NSF Graduate Research Fellows from CSU

Collin Brehmer
Civil Engineering
Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering

Morgan Crump
Graduated with degree in Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology
Warner College of Natural Resources

Daniel Dominguez
Graduated with degree in Watershed Science
Warner College of Natural Resources

Kayl Ecton
Cell and Molecular Biology
College of Natural Sciences

Leidy Hooker
Chemistry
College of Natural Sciences

Darcy Hunstiger
Cell and Molecular Biology
College of Natural Sciences

Blythe Johnston
Civil Engineering
Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering

Nicolas Matallana-Mejia
Ecology
College of Natural Sciences

Andrew Paton
Biological Science
College of Natural Sciences

Making an impact

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program logoAs the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program was developed to promote diversity in science and engineering in the United States.

Since 1952, the NSF has funded more than 50,000 Graduate Research Fellowships, with 42 fellows going on to become Nobel laureates and more than 450 becoming members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Johnston, who studies civil engineering in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, discovered her passion while working with the Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning at CSU. The experience allowed her to understand how her passions for engineering and community action can complement each other.

“I see an exciting path forward in my career in which my diverging interests are an asset and not an impending dilemma,” she said. “This award grants me increased autonomy in pursuit of my academic interests, which is such an incredible gift.”

Ecton, who studies microbial biology in the College of Natural Sciences, hopes to be a physician-scientist and bridge the gaps between science and medicine. She said she would like to keep one foot in academia and take her graduate training in mentorship and research and disseminate it to the public.

At CSU, she studies how diet affects the trillions of bacteria living in the gut, known as the microbiota, and how a flux or change in these populations influences the progression of cardiovascular disease and obesity.

“I applied [for the NSF Fellowship] without success in 2020. So being a recipient this year is a testament to the biggest lesson in research: try and fail — but try again,” Ecton said. “It is such an honor. Winning this award gives me renewed hope to work for a better future and to solve previously unsolved problems.”

Like Ecton, Hooker, who is in the College of Natural Sciences studying chemistry, is honored to be named a fellow.

Hooker said her dive into chemistry as an undergraduate didn’t come naturally, but she put in the time and effort and took advantage of a variety of research opportunities that cultivated a passion for organic chemistry methodology.”

“What continues to drive me is the pursuit of a deeper understanding and knowledge,” she said. “Upon graduating, I plan to continue my education into a postdoc position and then seek an academic position at an R1 university. I hope to promote STEM outreach in rural and tribal communities while encouraging students to continue their own pursuit of knowledge.”

Students interested in applying for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program should contact Mary Swanson at mary.swanson@colostate.edu.

NSF Graduate Research Honorable Mentions

Nine CSU student received Honorable Mentions from the National Science Foundation. This significant national academic achievement provides access to XSEDE, a cyber portal that scientists can use to interactively share computing resources, data and expertise.

Rachelle Austin
Chemistry
College of Natural Sciences

Taylor Bobowski
Ecology
College of Natural Sciences

Elizabeth Marie Ellis
Soil and Crop Sciences
College of Agricultural Sciences

Darby Lynn Gilfillan
Microbiology, Immunology, Pathology
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Elizabeth Sally Lawler
Statistics
College of Natural Sciences

Anna Elizabeth Marshall
Geosciences
Warner College of Natural Resources

Hillary My Ha Nguyen
Chemistry
College of Natural Sciences

Rachael L. Nickerson
Ecosystem Sustainability
Warner College of Natural Resources

Rosalyn Stoa
Psychology
College of Natural Sciences