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Two students recognized by NSF National Graduate Research Fellowship program; three recent grads also honored

Monday, April 11, 2022



MANHATTAN — Five current and former Kansas State University students have been selected for the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship or earned honorable mention from the program.

Ceci Schmitz, senior in electrical engineering, Topeka, has been selected for the fellowship, while Greg Tooley, master's student in biology, St. Marys, has earned honorable mention from the program. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship recognizes outstanding students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in the sciences, technology, engineering or mathematics. Fellowship recipients receive three years of funding, including a $34,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 payment to the university in lieu of tuition and fees.

Schmitz, who will graduate summa cum laude from K-State in May with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, will attend Duke University in the fall to pursue her doctorate in biomedical engineering and work in the lab of researcher Jonathan Viventi, who is developing novel, implantable flexible electrode arrays for monitoring brain activity in patients with epilepsy.

"The opportunity to advance technology for interfacing with the human nervous system is of interest to me because of the revolutionary impact for individuals with neurological damage and disorders," Schmitz said.

Her doctoral research will follow up on work Schmitz has been doing at K-State's Brain and Body Sensing Laboratory, run by David Thompson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. She was invited to work in the lab based on her classroom performance.

Her work in the lab includes a project testing algorithm accuracy data of a speller driven by a brain-computer interface, which is an assistive technology tool that helps people with severe impairments communicate. She helped prepare an abstract published in the conference proceedings for the 2021 Society for Neuroscience Conference. For another project, Schmitz analyzed the effects of word priming on emotion classification using electroencephalogram data. She wrote a paper about the work and its results have been accepted for publication as part of the 2022 Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference.

Schmitz also worked virtually with Joshua Smith at the Sensor Systems Laboratory at the University of Washington last summer for a Research Experience for Undergraduates program. She researched optimization of wireless power transmission to wearable sensors for recording neural activity using a radio frequency power transmission antenna and an electromyography sensor. She presented this research virtually at a symposium.

Along with her research work, Schmitz has been active in several K-State student organizations, serving as outreach chair for the Engineering Ambassadors, engineering world health chair for the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and electrical/biomedical chair for the Prosthetics Design Team. She also has been involved in Steel Ring, Alpha Phi Omega and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society. A K-State semester honors list student for seven semesters, she is an Engineering Leadership and Innovation scholar and received the Tau Beta Pi Scholarship and Putnam Scholarship. She also was named Outstanding Junior in Biomedical Engineering. The daughter of Loran and Deborah Schmitz, Topeka, she is a graduate of Hayden Catholic High School.

Tooley's research at K-State focuses on the mechanisms that enable woody shrubs to successfully encroach the Kansas tallgrass prairie. He works with Jesse Nippert, professor of biology. Tooley will earn his master's degree in May. For his doctorate, he will attend Colorado State University to continue studying the ecophysiology of grassland plants.

A graduate of St. Marys High School, Tooley earned his bachelor's degree from Fort Hays State University.

Along with Schmitz and Tooley, three recent K-State graduates also were selected for the fellowship or named honorable mention: Ethan Copple, a May 2021 bachelor's graduate in industrial engineering and anthropology, Manhattan, who is now at Oregon State University, fellowship selection; Samantha Goetting, May 2020 bachelor's graduate in biochemistry, Shawnee, who is now at Johns Hopkins University, honorable mention; and Maria De La Torre Romo, a May 2019 bachelor's graduate in computer science, Cambridge, Massachusetts, who is now at MIT, fellowship selection.

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.



Jim Hohenbary

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Manhattan,Shawnee, St. Marys and Topeka, Kansas; and Cambridge, Massachusetts


National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship


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Ceci Schmitz
Ceci Schmitz, a K-State senior and recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Download the following photo.

Greg Tooley
Greg Tooley, master's student in biology, has been named honorable mention of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.