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Ogden Honors Students and Alums Receive 2015 NSF Graduate Fellowships

Seven from LSU Receive NSF Graduate Fellowships, Three Receive Honorable Mention

Seven current LSU students or recent graduates have been recognized by the National Science Foundation, or NSF, as 2015 Graduate Fellows, and three received honorable mention.

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, or GRFP, recognizes and supports exemplary students in the NSF-supported STEM fields who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited institutions within the United States.

Fellows are awarded a three-year annual stipend of $32,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.

This year’s fellows include from LSU:

  • Ansonia Badgett, a native of Chicago, Ill., received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from DePaul University. Badgett, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry at LSU, previously earned the NSF Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LS-AMP) Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship (managed by the LSU Office of Strategic Initiatives) and is also a Louisiana Board of Regents Fellowship.
  • Bruno Beltran, a native of Sulphur, La., is receiving a bachelor’s degree from LSU this month in mathematics. Beltran, who will pursue a Ph.D. in chemical and systems biology at Stanford University, is an OSI LA-STEM Research Scholar and member of the Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College.

Beltran said, “My receipt of this award would not have been possible without the incredible research and mentoring opportunities that were provided to me by the LA-STEM program.”

  • Kimberly Johnson, a Central Texas native, graduated from LSU with degrees in English and French in May 2012. Johnson, who is pursuing a master’s degree in linguistics from the University of Texas at Arlington, was a member of the Ogden Honors College at LSU.

Johnson said, “I’m passionate about communities’ rights to their heritage language and hope that the results of my research into language change due to endangerment and contact will contribute towards revitalization efforts in those communities as well as to the academic discussion on language endangerment.”

  • Rachael Keller, a native of West Monroe, La., is receiving a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in Chinese from LSU this month. Keller, who will pursue a Ph.D. in applied physics and applied mathematics at Columbia University, is a member of the Ogden Honors College at LSU.

Keller said, “With the caring, brilliant and overall amazing instructors and professors at LSU, I have been able to pursue and develop my studies in Chinese, computer science, mathematics and mechanical engineering. Through them I have been able to experience the culture of the scientific community. I am tremendously grateful and excited for having received this honor and amazing welcome into the community.”

  • Jacob McAlpin, a native of Natchitoches, La., received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from LSU in May 2014. McAlpin, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, was an OSI LA-STEM Research Scholar and member of the Ogden Honors College.

McAlpin said, “Receiving this award was a direct result of the excellent education I received at LSU. My research experiences, service opportunities, and communication intensive curriculum were all factors that led to my award.”

  • Melissa McDowell, a native of Baton Rouge, La., received a bachelor’s degree in animal science-science and technology in May 2013 from LSU. McDowell, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in biological and biomedical sciences at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, was an OSI LA-STEM Research Scholar and member of the Ogden Honors College at LSU.

McDowell said, “I am very honored to be named a NSF Graduate Research Fellow and am very appreciative of everyone who helped me reach this point, especially my current PI, Dr. Gerlinde Van de Walle, and my research mentor at LSU, Dr. Kenneth Bondioli. My undergraduate education at LSU was greatly enhanced by my distinction as a LA-STEM Scholar, and the skills I learned through this program, most notably grant writing, have proven invaluable. LSU and LA-STEM have given me a solid foundation to successfully build upon, and I am excited to continue pursuing my research passions and see what the future holds.”

  • Zachary Rodriguez, a native of Newburgh, N.Y., received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Clarkson University. Rodriguez, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology at LSU, also holds a NSF LS-AMP Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship.

Rodriguez said, “I am super excited to receive the NSF GRFP as it will afford me the time and flexibility to collaborate more broadly and dramatically improve the quantity and quality of my dissertation research. Importantly, it will also allow me to devote more time to two other passions of mine: encouraging the full participation of women and minorities in STEM through one-on-one mentorship and increasing scientific literacy through public outreach activities.”

The 2015 fellows represent 456 baccalaureate institutions, 72 more than in 2010, when the program first began awarding 2,000 fellowships each year.

“The College of Science is delighted to have such high achievers named NSF Graduate Research Fellows. Our scholars stood out from the more than 16,000 students that applied,” said Cynthia Peterson, LSU College of Science dean and Seola Arnaud and Richard Vernon Edwards Jr. Professor. “This is a tremendous accomplishment and speaks volumes about the outstanding students we have at LSU.” 

Two LSU students and one LSU alumna received honorable mention:

  • Chelsea Kliebert, an Ogden Honors College biochemistry graduate and a doctoral student at Stanford University.
  • Cameron Rutt, a native of Blooming Glen, Pa., received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Messiah College. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in renewable natural resources with a minor in biological sciences.
  • Alison Dreyfuss, a native of Keene, N.H., received her bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physics with a minor in statistics from Keene State College. She is currently a Board of Regents Fellow pursuing her Ph.D. in physics with a focus on nuclear structure.

The rigorous NSF GRFP application includes submission of a research proposal. Many of the LSU fellows honored this year participated in the annual NSF Graduate Research Fellowship application workshop, hosted by the Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership, or CCELL, and Communication across the Curriculum, or CxC. This two-part series workshop – led by Cliff and Nancy Spanier Alumni Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and Director of CCELL Marybeth Lima, Donald & Norma Nash McClure Alumni Professor in English Sarah Liggett, Cajun Constructors Professor in Construction Management Carol Friedland, and CxC Coordinator Becky Carmichael – has provided comprehensive training on developing exceptional applications.

“The NSF Graduate Fellowship is a prestigious national honor given to students with outstanding academic and research records who are positioned to make significant contributions to society in their respective disciplines,” Lima said. “This year, only 12 percent of all applicants for this award were funded. The seven honorees and three honorable mentions from LSU are among the nation's top young scholars.”

Since 1952, NSF has provided fellowships to individuals selected early in their graduate careers based on their demonstrated potential for notable achievement in science and engineering. The program continues to be a vital part of NSF’s overall emphasis on developing the globally-engaged workforce necessary to ensure the nation’s leadership in advancing science and engineering research and innovation.

“The NSF GRFP program funds only the country’s best students in the STEM fields,” said Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College Dean Jonathan Earle. “I think it’s telling that each year, LSU students receive a significant number of these grants, and that so many of these students are coming out of the Ogden Honors College. It shows that our curriculum focused on research and discovery from day one is paying off.”

A major priority of NSF is increasing the diversity of the science and engineering workforce, including geographic distribution and the participation of women, underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities and veterans. Among the awardees this year 1,053 are women, 494 are from underrepresented groups, and 31 are veterans.

“The NSF Fellowship has certainly opened doors for many LSU STEM scholars,” Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Boyd Professor of Chemistry Isiah Warner said. “OSI is happy to have assisted our faculty in mentoring and supporting five of the fellows this year. This is a wonderful testament to the success of our model holistic training programs, including IMSD – under Professor Graca Vicente’ in chemistry – as well as the LA-STEM Scholars Program and the Bridge to the Doctorate Initiative, which operate directly out of OSI. These programs have assisted our faculty mentors in yielding 18 successful NSF fellows from LSU since 2009. These scholars are true LSU ambassadors in the overall STEM fields and within their respective science communities.”

Fellows have the opportunity for international research collaborations through the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide, or GROW, initiative. LSU LA-STEM Scholar and Ogden Honors College alumna Anna Normand was a 2013 GROW recipient who conducted research in Sweden. The GRFP program also supports NSF’s Career-Life Balance Initiative. CLB supplemental funding may be awarded to sustain the research of active NSF Graduate Research Fellows who have been granted an NSF-approved medical deferral for dependent-care situations.

For more information on the Graduate Research Fellowship, visit

LSU College of Science

The LSU College of Science is an international leader in scientific research and instruction, elevating LSU to the highest level of excellence among major research universities in the U.S. and abroad. The college consists of five academic departments including biological sciences, chemistry, geology & geophysics, mathematics, and physics & astronomy, and the LSU Museum of Natural Science. Seven major fields of study and more than 20 concentrations are available to LSU students interested in pursuing a science major at LSU. College of Science students make up nearly half of the LSU’s top graduates. For more information on LSU’s College of Science, visit

LA-STEM Research Scholars Program & NSF Bridge to the Doctorate Initiative

The Louisiana Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or LA-STEM, Research Scholars Program and Bridge to Doctorate Initiative are managed by the LSU Office of Strategic Initiatives. OSI’s vision is to support the high achievements of LSU students, faculty, and staff through education, mentoring, and research. LA-STEM provides comprehensive training to scholars in preparation for doctoral programs. Bridge to Doctorate encourages and supports underrepresented students to pursue STEM Ph.D. degrees.

LSU Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College

The Ogden Honors College, established in 1992, is a vibrant, diverse and prestigious community located at the heart of LSU. The Honors College typically admits the top 10 percent of incoming LSU freshmen, and provides students with a curriculum of rigorous seminar classes, as well as opportunities for undergraduate research, culminating in the Honors Thesis. Its focus on community service, study abroad, internships and independent research helps today’s high-achieving students become tomorrow’s leaders.


The LSU Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership promotes learning, student leadership and community engagement through service-learning activities and community partnerships. For more information, visit


As the first program of its kind in the nation, LSU Communication across the Curriculum works with LSU faculty to train, mentor and recognize students who demonstrate exceptional skills in written, spoken, visual and technological communication. For more information, visit


Contact Ernie Ballard

LSU Media Relations