UNCG Students Receive Coveted National Science Foundation Fellowship

Posted on June 10, 2024

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Four students from UNC Greensboro were named fellows in the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).

The oldest fellowship of its kind, the NSF GRFP is awarded to only 16 percent of applicants. The program supports outstanding graduate students who have demonstrated the potential to be high-achieving scientists and engineers. The coveted award covers three years of graduate school expenses through doctoral studies and includes a $37,000 annual stipend — lifting a huge financial burden for graduate students bound for science research careers.

UNCG has a history of producing a strong number of GRFP recipients compared to similarly sized institutions, and this year is no exception.

“We are so excited that four of our outstanding graduate students have been tapped for this prestigious fellowship,” said Terri Shelton, vice chancellor for research and engagement. “This selection is tangible evidence of the high quality of UNCG graduate students, and we expect that these recipients will follow in the footsteps of other fellows who have gone on to have stellar scholarly careers.”

Learn more about this year’s NSF Graduate Research Fellows:

Garett Barto – pursuing Ph.D. in Chemistry and Biochemistry

Undergraduate degree: B.S. in Biochemistry from Illinois State University

Research area: Life Sciences – Biochemistry. Barto is using bioinformatics and machine learning to identify proteins in highly infectious diseases. These proteins will then be studied and repurposed for new and interesting chemistry. He will also be using heterologous expression to work on these proteins one-by-one by synthesizing and putting them in E. Coli, completely avoiding having to work directly with the pathogenic bacteria

Working with: Dr. Jason Reddick

Future Plans: To work as an Army biochemist researching emerging chemical and biological weapons

Read more about Barto here.

Garret Barto

“Our research is incredibly novel, and Dr. Reddick has given me immense trust from day one to design our project. So, to show the NSF what we are doing and for them to select me as a fellow is a tremendous honor.”

– Garett Barto

Kalea Nippert – pursuing Ph.D. in Enviornmental Health Science (Biology)

Undergraduate degree: Bachelor’s degrees in Biology (with an emphasis in evolution and ecology) and Environmental Science from Kansas State University

Research area: Life Sciences – Ecology. Savanna and grassland community ecology, looking at drivers of woody encroachment

Working with: Dr. Sally Koerner

Future Plans: Start and complete a Ph.D. and then figure out the next steps — likely a post-doctoral position followed by work either in academia or for the government running a community ecology lab.

Kaela Nippert

This award not only helped me to secure funding for a Ph.D. program under Dr. Koerner but it also allows me to continue to pursue research in helping to conserve the grasslands and savannas that I love.

– Kalea Nippert

Andre Plantinga-Kapteyn – pursuing M.S. in Biology

Undergraduate degree: B.S. in Biology and Biochemistry from Calvin University

Research area: Life Sciences – Ecology. Plantinga-Kapteyn is studying the ecology of small mammals and their parasites across a series of mountain ranges in Nevada and Utah. 

Working with: Dr. Bryan McLean

Future Plans: To pursue a Ph.D. and possibly continue in academia as a professor

Andre Plantinga-Kapteyn

“I couldn’t have done this without the help of my advisor, Dr. Bryan McLean. From developing my proposed research project to giving feedback on all of my application materials, he was a huge help every step of the way.”

– Andre Plantinga-Kapteyn

Anna Sheets – pursuing Ph.D. in Nanoscience with Materials Science concentration

Undergraduate degree: B.S.E. in Engineering Physics from Austin Peay State University

Research area: Materials Research – Physics of Materials. Sheets will be will working on engineering a two-dimensional biosensing platform utilizing 2D Silver Metal and monolayer graphene to detect specific DNA/RNA strands.  

Working with: Dr. Tetyana Ignatova

Future Plans: To work as a researcher in a national laboratory and eventually teach undergraduates

Anna Sheets

“Receiving the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is a huge honor that will greatly impact my future.”

– Anna Sheets

In addition, two students who recently completed undergraduate degrees at UNCG were also recognized by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program:

  • Jade Lyons – Lyons received her undergraduate biology degree from UNCG and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in genetics at NC State University. She was named an NSF Fellow.
  • Melika Osareh – Osreh also received her undergraduate biology degree from UNCG and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at NC State University. She was presented with an honorable mention by NSF.
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Story by Elizabeth KeriCollege of Arts & Sciences
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