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Kansas State University students, alumni receive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 


MANHATTAN — Six current Kansas State University students and two alumni are among the National Science Foundation's 2018 Graduate Research Fellows and honorable mentions.

Adam Schieferecke, combined Bachelor of Science and Master of Science student in biology, Bennington; Kyle Apley, senior in chemistry, Olsburg; Benjamin Archibeque, senior in physics and psychology, Wichita; and Priscila Guzman, doctoral student in biology, Florida, Puerto Rico, are among 2,000 students nationwide to receive the three-year fellowship, which includes a $34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 for tuition and fees. More than 12,000 students applied for the fellowship.

Hannah Wilborn, senior in industrial engineering, Hoisington, and Nelson Walker, doctoral student in statistics, Freeport, Illinois, received honorable mentions.

The fellowship supports and recognizes outstanding students conducting science, technology, engineering or mathematics research as they undertake master's or doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. The fellowship program was established in 1952.

"The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is one of the most prestigious recognitions for graduate students and represents a national investment in our STEM workforce," said Beth Montelone, senior associate vice president for research at Kansas State University. "The fact that six current K-State students were awarded fellowships or honorable mentions indicates that our institution provides students with excellent training and faculty mentors, and that they produce outstanding research results."

"The fellowship will support the students both financially and professionally as they begin or continue their graduate degrees," said Carol Shanklin, dean of the Kansas State University Graduate School and NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program coordinating official. "The award recognizes the recipients' outstanding academic accomplishments and research skills they have developed through the support of their research mentors at K-State."

Schieferecke has been involved in a number of undergraduate research opportunities during his time at K-State, with a focus on the interrelated areas of virology, evolution and cancer biology. He is working on his master's thesis in the lab of Lorena Passarelli, professor of biology, studying the relationship between two important proteins found in baculoviruses, a group of viruses that naturally infect insects and are used in agriculture as pesticides. In addition to research, Schieferecke has been involved in communicating science by speaking at Kansas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol, TEDxMHK and rural Kansas high school classrooms. He was awarded the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship in 2016. He will pursue his doctorate in molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley starting in the fall.

Apley has researched the synthesis of new molecular probes to better understand chemical interference in drug screening and mechanisms contributing to drug toxicity along with development of a novel catalyst to selectively modify complex small molecules. He has worked with Duy Hua, university distinguished professor of chemistry, and was recognized as an honorable mention for the Barry Goldwater scholarship in spring 2017. He plans to pursue a doctorate in medicinal or pharmaceutical chemistry before leading a drug discovery and development team in industry or performing basic and translational research in academia.

Archibeque has participated in several undergraduate research projects, including a meta-analysis of the impact of teaching method and other institutional variables on student learning in introductory physics, which involves more than 50,000 students. He also conducted a study that developed qualitative and quantitative measurements of equity in small groups of students. His research was conducted under the mentorship of Eleanor Sayre, associate professor of physics, through the Developing Scholars Program and the Ronald E. McNair Baccalaureate Achievement Program. He plans to obtain a doctorate in physics at Florida International University.

Guzman is studying the soil bacterium and plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens as a model organism to research bacterial interactions in the lab of Thomas Platt, assistant professor of biology. Guzman is passionate about science outreach. She works as a science, technology, engineering and mathematics mentor and counselor for the Verde Clovers 4H Latino Club, serves as a teaching volunteer with the K-State Office for the Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering, and is part of the Kansas Science Communication Initiative and a group of graduate students that is developing Science Snapshots, a blog featuring Kansas State University research. She recently represented the university on the 2018 Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering Workshop in Washington, D.C., and she received honorable mention from the 2018 Ford Foundation Fellowship Program from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

Wilborn worked as an undergraduate research assistant for David Ben-Arieh, professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, to investigate modeling the spread of infectious diseases. She plans to pursue a doctorate in industrial engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology beginning in the fall.

Walker modeled the effects of age, gender and genetic variation on tooth decay in rural Appalachian residents during an undergraduate research experience. He also researched the feasibility of using remote sensing satellite data to improve air pollution prediction models during a graduate research experience with the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute. Walker's current research under Trevor Hefley, assistant professor of statistics, develops methods to correct bias in statistical models caused by location error. His efforts this past year were funded through the Lolafaye Coyne Statistics Graduate Research Scholarship and he is receiving the Graduate School's Timothy R. Donoghue Graduate Scholarship. Walker will complete his master's degree in statistics this summer and begin his doctorate at Kansas State University in the fall.

Muriel Eaton, 2017 Kansas State University bachelor's graduate in biochemistry and now a graduate student at Purdue, also received a fellowship. Michael Vega, 2016 bachelor's graduate in geology and chemistry and now a graduate student at the Colorado School of Mines, received honorable mention.

Jim Hohenbary, the university's director of national competitive scholarships, said the results of the competition reflect well on Kansas State University students.

"All of these students have worked extremely hard to take advantage of the research opportunities available to them at K-State, and I am excited to see that worked affirmed by the NSF," Hohenbary said. "This recognition and support will serve them well as they seek to take the next steps in the academic careers."

Kansas State University undergraduates and first-year graduate students interested in applying for the NSF Graduate Fellowship should contact Hohenbary at 785-532-3422 or jimlth@k-state.edu.


Beth Montelone

Carol Shanklin

Jim Hohenbary

News tip

Bennington, Hoisington, Olsburg and Wichita, Kansas; Freeport, Illinois; and Florida, Puerto Rico.

Written by

Sarah Caldwell Hancock