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National Fellowships and Scholar Programs

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UofSC's 2019 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Winners and Honorable Mentions


One UofSC undergraduate student, two graduate students, and seven alumni have been awarded 2019 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF). Current South Carolina senior Noemi Glaeser, graduate students Kaitlyn Pilarzyk and Luke Wilde, and alumni Vincent Esposito, Abigail Herschman, Colman Moore, Shrusti Patel, Adrian Perez, Samantha Stewart, and Heather Struckman have all been named NSF GRF Fellows. Two other current students, William Edwards and Sarah Zajovits, as well as three alumni, Justin DuRant, Jonathan Keefe, and Elizabeth Rizor were selected for Honorable Mentions in this prestigious graduate fellowship competition.

The National Science Foundation has awarded 2,050 three-year Graduate Research Fellowships of approximately $138,000 each to outstanding college and university students for the year 2019. Since 1952, NSF has provided fellowships to individuals selected early in their graduate careers based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering.


Esposito graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017 with a B.S in Chemistry. As an undergraduate he performed research in Dr. Susan Richardson’s lab studying the formation of disinfection by-products (DBP) in drinking water. As a sophomore he interned at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where he studied the interaction between solar wind and the Moon’s surface. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania where he works in Dr. Marsha Lester’s lab studying the spectroscopy and dynamics of atmospheric reaction intermediates. He aspires to work for NASA as the principal investigator of a team that studies planetary atmospheres.

Glaeser is a senior McNair Scholar in the South Carolina Honors College who will graduate this spring with dual degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science and a minor in Music. While at the university, Glaeser completed undergraduate research and internships in computer science and has acted as Webmaster and officer of the Cybersecurity Club and Treasurer of the Gamecock Math Club/Pi Mu Epsilon Math Honor Society. She previously received a Goldwater Honorable Mention and was also offered a prestigious Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship, which she declined to accept the NSF award. She plans to pursue a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Maryland in order to pursue a research career in either industry or academia.

Herschman graduated from UofSC in 2018 with a major in Mechanical Engineering and minors in Dance and Pre-Med. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Science degree at Columbia University in Mechanical Engineering. As a UofSC undergraduate she was a McNair Junior Fellow, Phi Delta Epsilon Medical Fraternity member, UofSC Dance Showcase performer, and NSF REU participant at Columbia University. She is the Co-founder and CEO of the non-profit company, Hands on Prosthetic Engineering, and plans to spend her career creating fully autonomous prosthetics that run off neural function.

Moore is a 2017 South Carolina Honors College graduate who majored in Biomedical Engineering. He is a current graduate student at UC San Diego where he works with Dr. Jesse Jokerst developing ultrasound-based contrast agents to detect and treat periodontal disease. Moore accumulated extensive undergraduate research experience working with Dr. Melissa Moss. He studied the ability of isoflavones, organic compounds of the polyphenol family, to inhibit amyloid-β protein aggregation, a process associated with neurodegeneration that occurs during Alzheimer’s disease. Moore plans to become an independent researcher in industry or academia, working to develop nanomedicines for therapy and imaging.

Patel is a South Carolina Honors College graduate who received her degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2018. She is a current graduate student at Vanderbilt University where she works with Dr. Craig Duvall developing nanoparticles for RNAi delivery for breast cancers. While working under the direction of Dr. Ann Ramsdell at UofSC, Shrusti studied left versus right asymmetric qualities of breasts and how these differences affect breast development and disease. She also worked in the Gower lab studying how left and right tumors impact macrophage infiltration into the lung. She plans to pursue a career in academia in the Biomedical Engineering field.

Perez graduated from the Honors College with a degree in Biology in 2017. As an undergraduate, he worked in the lab of Dr. Ward Watt, and performed his honors thesis under the joint guidance of Dr. Jeff Dudycha and Dr. Daniel Speiser on visual behavior in water fleas (Genus Daphnia). He is currently pursuing graduate studies in Animal Behavior at the University of California – Davis where he studies social behavior and disease transmission in honey bees. After receiving his PhD, he plans to pursue a faculty position at a research university.   

Pilarzyk is a 2015 graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay and is a current graduate student of Biomedical Sciences at the University of South Carolina. Now in her second year of study at UofSC, she is working in the laboratory of Dr. Michy P. Kelly exploring neurobiological pathways of social memories and social interactions, and how alterations in these pathways might contribute to social deficits that are seen with neurodevelopmental, psychiatric, and age-related disease. She is a member of the Society for Neuroscience and Graduate Association for Brain Awareness, and she is a founding Co-President of the Biomedical Science Graduate Student Association on campus. She plans to pursue a career as an academic researcher.

Stewart is a South Carolina Honors College McNair Scholar who received her B.S in Biomedical Engineering in 2017. Her research focuses on developing nanotechnologies for safer and more efficient cell and tissue banking to advance cell-mediated therapy and regenerative medicine, as well as nanotechnologies for cancer therapy. She is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Maryland, College Park and hopes to encourage more women principal investigators through her work in industry or academia.

Struckman is a 2018 graduate of UofSC’s Biomedical Engineering program. She is currently a student at The Ohio State University in Rengasayee Veeraraghavan’s lab studying the role of nanodomains in cell-cell communication. She conducted undergraduate research in Dr. Michael Gower’s lab for four years and worked on two separate projects. The first was to develop tissue engineering scaffolds for colon cancer treatment. The second project was to isolate and study foreign body giant cells from biomaterials implanted into fat tissue.

Wilde received his BS in Biology with a focus on ecology from Gonzaga University in 2017. As a South Carolina student pursing a Master of Science in Biological Sciences, he is investigating the effects of variation across space and time in community function. He does this by studying the influences of resource distribution on the movement and diet of red foxes in conjunction with the space-use decisions of ground-nesting water birds. He plans to pursue a career in academia and conservation outreach.  

Honorable Mentions

Edwards is a University of South Carolina senior who will graduate this spring with a degree in Computer Science with a concentration in Robotics. He will begin graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this fall.

DuRant is a 2017 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College, where he received degrees in Biological Sciences and Music Performance. As an undergraduate, he was a NOAA Hollings Scholar as well as a DAAD RISE recipient. Durant is currently pursuing a graduate degree at University of Texas at Austin, which he will use to become a change agent in the field of Environmental Engineering.

Keefe is a 2017 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College, where he was a McNair Scholar and earned his B.S. in Experimental Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience.  He is currently pursuing a PhD in Cognitive Psychology at the University of California – San Diego, where his research focuses on understanding how attention works within and across sensory modalities to affect how we perceive the world, using EEG to better understand how the brain performs these complication computations.  Keefe plans to become a university professor.

Rizor graduated from the South Carolina Honors college in 2018 with a degree in Exercise Science. As an undergraduate she received the Science Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Grant from the Honors College to fund work as a research assistant in Dr. Jill Stewart’s Motor Behavior and Neuroimaging Laboratory. In the fall of 2019, she will begin pursing a PhD in Dynamical Neuroscience from the University of California – Santa Barbara and she plans to pursue a career as either a professor of neuroscience or as a professional in the biotechnology industry.

Zajovits is a current senior at the University of South Carolina where she is pursuing a degree in Marine Science. As a UofSC student, she is a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Fraternity and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She also took part in Ecology Project International in Costa Rice conducting research for nesting Leatherback Sea Turtles. She has been accepted into the Graduate Program at UofSC and will begin research with Dr. Virginia Shervette on the life history of Caribbean Reef Fish beginning in the Fall of 2019.

The UofSC NSF Committee is to be commended for their work with these students. The committee is chaired by Michael Matthews (Chemical Engineering), and includes Reginald Bain (Music), Carol Boggs (Earth, Ocean and Environment and Biological Sciences), MVS Chandrashekhar (Electrical Engineering), Leigh D’Amico (Education/Program Evaluation), Sharon DeWitte (Anthropology), Jochen Lauterbach (Chemical Engineering), Barry Markovsky (Sociology), Howie Scher (Earth and Ocean Sciences), Todd Shaw (Political Science), Jeff Twiss (Biology/Neuroscience), and Hans-Conrad zur Loye (Chemistry and Biochemistry).  

The Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs identifies and recruits student to apply for nationally competitive fellowships and scholarships, Since 1994 when the Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs was established, over 100 University of South Carolina students and recent graduates have won NSF Graduate Research Fellowships.

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