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Students, Alumni Named NSF Research Scholars

Seven UofSC Students & Alums Awarded NSF GRF

May 1, 2020 | Maddox McKibben-Greene | National Fellowships and Scholar Programs

This year, six current University of South Carolina students and recent alumni and one incoming graduate student were awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP), and an additional four students were named Honorable Mentions. The financial support from the NSF will allow them to focus their time and energy on their classes and research in a wide range of fields, including marine science, geology and biochemistry.

Current South Carolina senior Sarah Beth Pye, incoming graduate student Maina Handmaker, current graduate student Annie Klyce and UofSC alumni Akilah Alwan, Casey Brayton, Richard Brokaw and Leon Tran have been announced as 2020 NSF GRFP Fellows. Four UofSC alumnae – Alexis Bantle, Lindsey Guerin, Emily Hardin and Krystyn Kibler – were selected for Honorable Mentions in this prestigious graduate fellowship competition.

Each year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) provides funding through the graduate research fellowships program (GRFP) to promising graduating seniors, recent graduates and graduate students early in their careers.

Sarah Beth Pye, a senior at UofSC graduating with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology and French, has conducted research in Dr. Maksymilian Chruszcz’s lab focusing on drug research to combat antibiotic-resistant pathogens. In the fall, Pye will attend Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, to begin her Ph.D. studies in molecular microbiology and microbial pathogenesis. In addition to this prestigious award, Pye received a Magellan Scholar Research Grant in 2018 and was named a Goldwater Scholar in 2019.

“It means a lot to me to have the added support as I start my graduate studies, since I will be moving to a new city and getting settled there,” Pye says. “It is also exciting to have the recognition associated with this award ,as so many significant scientific contributors before me have been awarded the NSF GRFP.”

In addition to her research, Pye plays the double bass in the university orchestra and competes as a member of the Charles Towne Independent Winter Guard. She has also served as a resident mentor (RM) for three years, assisting first-year students in the Honors Residence hall and students living on the Historic Horseshoe. 

Annie Klyce, a graduate of Appalachian State University with a bachelor’s degree in geology, will continue her study in the field and pursue a Ph.D. at UofSC. Klyce’s current research focuses on training spatial skills in undergraduate students to see it this has any effect on their confidence and success in future STEM courses. As a female first-generation college student in STEM, one of her biggest goals through her research is to increase accessibility in STEM fields.

“While applying for the GRF, I realized how much I love what I'm doing. I think it's incredibly common for us to not think we're where we belong or doing exactly what we should be,” Klyce says. “But throughout this application process, I realized that I was excited about every component of my project. I'm so grateful to have found and to be a part of a field that I'm so passionate about.”

Nationally, there were approximately 13,000 applicants for this year’s NSF GRFP competition. There were 2,076 applicants selected as NSF Graduate Research Fellows and 1,827 applicants who received honorable mentions.

Among this year’s NSF GRFP winners is Maina Handmaker, an incoming UofSC graduate student. Handmaker attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where she graduated in 2011 with degrees in environmental studies as visual art. Throughout her application process, Handmaker worked closely with Dr. Nathan Senner in the Department of Biological Sciences and will come to South Carolina to study whimbrel, a species of migratory shorebird.

“I will be tracking whimbrel movements during and after their spring stopover on the coast of South Carolina using miniature GPS tags. This will help us investigate how individuals select foraging and roosting sites and better understand how those choices influence their entire annual cycle,” Handmaker says. 

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