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National Fellowships and Scholar Programs

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NSF distinguishes 11 USC students, alumni with research awards

Daniel Coble, Ashlin Deatherage, Margaret Gordon, Cathryn Murphy, Sara Padula and Lex Whalen are 2024 recipients of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program scholarship. This award provides three years of funding to support graduate-level study and research. USC students have earned the NSF GRFP for 28 consecutive years.

Hunter McRay, Rachel Rittmeyer, Ian Street, Sydney Wheeler and Megan Whisonant earned honorable mention recognition. This is a significant national achievement that designates the strong merit of their applications.

Why it matters

The NSF GRFP provides $37,000 a year for three years, plus a $16,000 educational allowance, to master's or Ph.D. students whose research projects have significant intellectual merit and broad impacts. Students can choose their own research project and advisor, and they may utilize the funding at any U.S. institution of higher education. USC’s past recipients have made significant impacts in academia, the private sector and their communities.

Daniel Coble smiling in front of a waterfall.

Who they are

Daniel Coble is a 2024 Honors College graduate who majored in mechanical engineering and mathematics. For over three years, he has researched with Dr. Austin Downey, developing computationally efficient algorithms for deployed or autonomous systems. He has also worked with Dr. Siming He on a project analyzing the dissipation in fluids. Coble is grateful for the flexibility that the NSF GRFP will give him when choosing a research topic in graduate school, and he looks forward to continuing his mechanical engineering studies. He plans to earn a Ph.D. and pursue a career in academia or a national lab.

Margaret Gordon smiling.

McNair scholar and 2023 SCHC graduate Margaret Gordon earned a bachelor’s degree in geological sciences. During her time at USC, Gordon conducted research in Dr. Bourbonnais’ stable isotope lab. She monitored the nutrient concentrations of Lake Wateree, specifically the nitrogen stable isotope ratios. With funding from the NSF GRFP, Gordon will pursue a Ph.D. in marine carbonate geochemistry. Her newest research project will focus on how coral skeletons record land use and climate change. Following her Ph.D. program, she aspires to make the world a more equitable, sustainable and safe place.

Sara Padula graduated from the SCHC in 2022 with a degree in biological sciences. She is currently a second-year Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, Boulder. At USC, Padula studied the migration of an endangered shorebird known as the red knot with Dr. Nathan Senner. She has continued her ornithological research with Dr. Scott Taylor at CU Boulder, investigating the genetics of learning and memory in two food-caching songbirds. She looks forward to doing more fieldwork and plans to apply to a post-doc program after earning a Ph.D.

Lex Whalen

Lex Whalen, 1801 scholar and 2023 Honors College graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Georgia Tech, studying robust and scalable machine learning and AI. While at USC, Whalen’s research interests encompassed both computer science and linguistics. He researched with Dr. Homayoun Valafar, contributing to the mLIFE and SWITCH projects, and worked with Dr. Stanley Dubinsky on the Wordification and Language Conflict projects. At Georgia Tech, Whalen plans to research with Dr. Celine Lin in the Efficient and Intelligent Computing lab. He aspires to become fluent in Mandarin and launch a space exploration- or development-oriented business.

In addition to support from national fellowships advisors, USC’s NSF GRFP candidates can gain insight from a faculty committee. For the 2023 – 2024 academic year, Dr. Carol Boggs (committee chair), Dr. Kristen Booth, Dr. Leigh D’Amico, Dr. Ralf Gothe, Dr. Breanne Grace, Dr. Jochen Lauterbach, Dr. Eric LoPresti, Dr. Pamela Martin, Dr. Ramtin Mohammadizand, Dr. Tammi Richardson, Dr. Jeff Twiss, Dr. Mark Uline, Dr. Matthew Wilson, Dr. Lang Yuan and Dr. Hans-Conrad zur Loye served on the committee.

Students interested in learning more about applying for the NSF GRFP should contact USC’s national fellowships team

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