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UofSC NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Winners



Three current USC students and five USC alumni have been awarded 2017 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF). Current students De'Aira Bryant, Brock Fletcher, and Dylan Madisetti, and alumni Laquita Grissett, Mackenzie Meece-Rayle, Michele Repetto, Paris Smalls, and Elizabeth Yankovsky have all been named NSF GRF Fellows. One other current graduate student, Alicia Lamarche and five alumni, Joseph Andrews, Alexandra Hooks, Kelly McCabe, Drew Patterson, and Sydney Pullen were selected for Honorable Mentions in this prestigious graduate fellowship competition.

The National Science Foundation has awarded 2,000 three-year Graduate Research Fellowships of approximately $138,000 each to outstanding college and university students for the year 2017. 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.


Bryant will graduate this May from the College of Engineering and Computing with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. She is the recipient of the Solomon Jackson Jr. Scholarship, the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship, and the Valedictorian Scholarship, as well as the 2016 Lillie J. James Computer Science Award. Her undergraduate research over the last three years has been in the Assistive Robotics and Technology Lab, under the mentorship of Dr. Jenay Beer, partially funded with a Magellan Scholarship. Much of her work went towards "Ms. An the Robot Tutor," a project involving the use of an NAO humanoid robot as a mathematics tutor for elementary school students. The co-founder and current president of Minorities in Computing at USC, she is also a member of Women in Computing, Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society, Pi Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honor Society and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She has also volunteered with FIRST Robotics Competitions, the Hour of Code, and the CEC Engineering Week Open House for several years. Bryant will intern with Adobe Systems Inc. this summer and begin her PhD in Computer Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the fall. Bryant plans to become a university professor of computer science conducting research in the field of human-computer interaction.

Fletcher will graduate in May from the South Carolina Honors College with a major in Biomedical Engineering. His undergraduate research, mentored by Dr. Brian Benicewicz, has applied polymer chemistry towards nanoparticle drug delivery and nuclear waste treatment, resulting in a publication and two conference presentations. His freshman-year research for Dr. Bert Ely in bacterial genetics was also published. Brock serves as President for South Carolina's chapter of Tau Beta Pi, served as Historian and New Member Educator for the Clariosophic Literary Society, and is a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He is a National Merit Scholar, Palmetto Fellow, and SURF grant recipient. In the fall, he will begin his PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University in the Duvall Advanced Therapeutics Laboratory.

Grissett graduated Magna Cum Laude from the South Carolina Honors College with a degree in Biological Sciences and with Leadership Distinction in Research in May of 2016. She was a Magellan Scholar and recipient of an Opportunity Scholars Program Gamecock Guarantee Scholarship. Grissett was also named an Outstanding Biology Senior and University of South Carolina Outstanding Senior in 2016. She is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. During all four years of her undergraduate career, Grissett conducted plant molecular biology research with Dr. Johannes Stratmann. Her research was supported by a SURF grant, Magellan Guarantee Grant, and South Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation summer research fellowship. As a recipient of a Benjamin A Gilman International Scholarship, Grissett was able to study abroad in Costa Rica in 2015. Grissett is pursuing her doctorate at the University of Washington in Oral Biology with a concentration in Neurosciences.

Madisetti will graduate this spring from the South Carolina Honors College with a major in Mechanical Engineering, and minors in Computer Science and Mathematics. He has been doing undergraduate research throughout his college years, was a NASA Langley Intern in 2016, and this year is the ASME Student Chapter President. The recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Freshman Award, he has also received the NSPE Foundation Scholarship and the Tau Beta Pi Scholarship. His research has been funded by both the SURF Grant and the Magellan Grant. Madiestti plans to attain his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on physical stimulations.

Meece-Rayle is a 2016 graduate of the University of South Carolina with a major in Chemistry. She was the recipient of the Hiram and Lawanda Allen Scholarship for Excellence in Chemistry, the Max G. Gergel Award for having the highest GPA in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department, Outstanding Senior Awards, and Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Meece-Rayle is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She is currently a Provost Graduate Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, pursuing her Ph.D. in Chemistry. She holds a patent for Reproducible Sample Preparation Method for Quantitative Stain Detection. She is interested in developing technologies for renewable energy storage, and is currently researching electrode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

Repetto is a 2011 graduate of the University of South Carolina with a major in Marine Science. A Capstone Scholar, she pursued her undergraduate research with Dr. Blaine Griffen. Since graduating from USC, she interned at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center under Gregory Ruiz in 2011, and worked there as a laboratory technician from 2012-2015. Repetto is now a graduate research assistant in the Department of Biology at Temple University, under Dr. Amy Freestone, and is working towards her Ph.D. in Biology. She plans to pursue an academic faculty position or a research position with a government science agency.

Smalls is a 2016 graduate of the University of South Carolina, where he earned a degree in Geophysics.

Yankovsky is a 2015 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College, where she earned majored in Geophysics and Physics. She was a Lieber Scholar, Palmetto Fellows Scholar, Magellan Scholar, and recipient of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists Foundation Scholarship. As an undergraduate, she completed two NSF REUs (Research Experiences for Undergraduates), one with Dr. Robert Chant at Rutgers in 2013, and one with Dr. James Lerczak at Oregon State University in 2014. She completed research in the USC Geophysics Exploration Laboratory under Dr. Camelia Knapp, focusing on "Methane Hydrates and Cellular Convection in the Central Aleutian Basin." Yankovsky is presently finishing her second year of graduate studies in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences program at Princeton University, working as a graduate research assistant within the Ice-Ocean Processes Group in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. She is interested in theoretical and modeling studies of geophysical fluids, in particular, studying small-scale processes and their effects on large-scale circulation and climate.

Honorable Mentions

Andrews is a 2015 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College, with a major in Electrical Engineering. He is currently working towards his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University, and plans to pursue a professorship at a research university.

Hooks is a 2011 graduate of the University of South Carolina with a major in Marine Science. A Capstone Scholar, she was a recipient of the Palmetto Fellowship Scholarship, the South Carolina State Fair Scholarship, the Traci Heincelman Memorial Scholarship, and the Magellan Scholar Undergraduate Research Grant. In 2012, she was awarded the Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid. Currently working towards her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at Florida State University, she intends to pursue a career in academia.

Lamarche is a 2015 graduate of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, with a major in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of South Carolina. Her area of interest is Algebraic Geometry, and during her undergraduate years she coauthored five papers related to algebra and number theory. Lamarche plans to be a professor.

McCabe is a 2016 graduate of the University of South Carolina, with majors in Chemistry ACS and Marine Science. As an undergraduate, she received the NOAA Hollings Scholarship in 2014, the Outstanding Undergraduate in Marine Science award, the ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry Undergraduate Award, the Traci J. Heincelman Award in Marine Science, the Marine Technology Society Scholarship, the Baruch Institute Undergraduate Scholarship in Marine Science, and had her research funded by a Magellan Grant. Her research took place in Dr. Claudia Benitez-Nelson's lab, studying phosphorous biogeochemical cycling. McCabe is currently a Florida State University Legacy Fellow pursuing her Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography at Florida State University in the lab of Dr. Angela Knapp, and hopes to become a professor at a Research Institute.

Patterson graduated from the South Carolina Honors College with a major in Mechanical Engineering. He was a Terminix Carolina Scholar recipient while at the University of South Carolina. He has continued his education in mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Pullen is a 2011 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College, with a major in anthropology and minor in music. She is currently working towards her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology at the University of Arizona, studying education inequity and alternative education models.

The USC 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), Shauna Cooper (Psychology), Leigh D'Amico (Education/Program Evaluation), Sharon DeWitte (Anthropology), Jachon Lauterbach (Chemical Engineering), Barry Markovsky (Sociology), Howie Scher (Earth and Ocean Sciences), Todd Shaw (Political Science), Richard Showman (Biological Sciences), 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, 99 University of South Carolina students and recent graduates have won NSF Graduate Research Fellowships.

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