Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Nine University of Iowa students and recent graduates were named recipients of the highly competitive Graduate Research Fellowship Program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Recipients include graduate students Kendall Riley, Hannah Zadeh, and Samantha Kruse; undergraduates Nyah Davis, Lily Jones, and Anvay Pradhan; and recent graduates Riley Lewers, Emily Silich, and Victoria Cassady. 

The efforts of three more Hawkeyes—Rose Gogal, Andrej Corkovic, and Carly Donahue—were recognized as honorable mentions. 

The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate and undergraduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in fields within NSF’s mission. The GRFP provides up to three years of support for the graduate education of recipients who have demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in science and engineering research. Each award cycle, the NSF receives about 13,000 applications and, in 2022, the agency offered fellowships to 2,193 students.

Established in 1952, the GRFP is critical to the NSF’s strategy to develop a globally engaged workforce and ensure the nation’s leadership in advancing science and engineering research and innovation. A major goal of the program is to increase the diversity of the STEM workforce, including geographic distribution, as well as the participation of women, underrepresented minorities, people with disabilities, and veterans.

Fellows chosen for the 2022 Graduate Research Fellowship Program will receive three years of financial support, totaling $138,000. The annual $34,000 stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance are also coupled with other opportunities for international research and professional development. 

Undergraduate students

Nyah Davis headshot
Nyah Davis

Nyah Davis of Des Moines, Iowa, will graduate from Iowa in May with a degree in mathematics. A 2021 Goldwater Scholar and 2022 Ford Pre-Doctoral Fellowship awardee, Davis has conducted research in the Department of Mathematics with Colleen Mitchell and Ryan Kinser.  Her honors thesis on General Representations of Finite-Dimensional Algebras was supported by a Research Training Group (RTG) Undergraduate Fellowship. In the fall, Nyah will begin her doctoral studies in theoretical mathematics at Rice University as their first Raymond Johnson Graduate Fellow.

Lily Jones headshot
Lily Jones

Lily Jones of Ankeny, Iowa, graduated with honors with a degree in Chemistry from Iowa in December 2021. While at Iowa, Jones conducted research with Elizabeth Stone on atmospheric chemistry with a focus on the characterization of bioaerosols. By studying how pollen ruptures under extreme weather conditions, Jones helped develop methods for the spatial analysis of aeroallergens. Jones will continue her training in fall 2022 at Colorado State University where she will investigate biosphere-atmosphere interactions and their implications for climate processes.

Anvay Pradhan headshot
Anvay Pradhan

Anvay Pradhan of West Des Moines, Iowa, will graduate from Iowa in May with degrees in mechanical engineering and computer science. His research experiences have ranged from tribology to space physics instrumentation to industrial robotics. In addition to research and teaching collaborations with Phil Deierling in the College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, Pradhan spent the last two summers working with researchers at the California Institute of Technology to develop an origami-inspired metamaterial with tunable permeability. This fall, Pradhan will attend the University of Michigan where he will focus his research on the modeling, simulation, and design of compliant, biomimetic robots. 

Recent graduates

Riley Lewers headshot
Riley Lewers

Riley Lewers of Iowa City, Iowa, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and mathematics from Iowa in 2020. Since graduating, Lewers has worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. She will begin doctoral work in applied economics at the University of California, San Diego in fall 2022 where she will focus her studies on environmental economics.  As an undergraduate at Iowa, Lewers began exploring research through early collaborations with David Frisvold in the Department of Economics and Rene Rocha in the Department of Political Science

Emily Silich headshot
Emily Silich

Emily Silich of Epworth, Iowa, graduated from Iowa with degrees in astronomy and physics in spring 2021. A 2020 Goldwater Scholar, Silich worked on the HaloSat, an astrophysics mission in collaboration with NASA that searches the Milky Way’s galactic halo for missing matter as a member of Phil Kaaret’s research team in the Department of Astronomy and Physics. Silich is in her first year of graduate study in astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology.

Tori Cassady headshot
Victoria Cassady

Victoria Cassady of West Des Moines, Iowa, graduated from Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in biochemistry and a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology in spring 2020. As an undergraduate, Cassady conducted research on the use of ribonucleic acid (RNA) sequencing to predict cancer outcomes with Ronald Weigel in the Department of Surgery in the Carver College of Medicine. She is a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles where she is studying how microbial structures are preserved in the rock record and what microbial processes impact stromatolite textures. 

Graduate students

Samantha Kruse headshot
Samantha Kruse

Samantha Kruse of Waterloo, Illinois, graduated from Webster University in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. She is currently a PhD candidate in the UI Department of Chemistry where she is working with Tori Z. Forbes and Len R. MacGillivray to develop a fundamental understanding of the structure and function of the relationship of organic materials with exposure to different forms of radiation (i.e., gamma, beta, and alpha).

Kendall Riley headshot
Kendall Riley

Kendall Riley of Loogootee, Indiana, graduated from Indiana University in 2020 with bachelor’s degrees in human biology and psychology. She is a second-year PhD student in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Iowa. With the support of her mentor Mark Berg, Riley is studying how trauma and adversity get shape health. More specifically, her research seeks to understand incarceration as a social determinant of health and its role in perpetuating health disparities for Black people living in the U.S. who are hyper-exposed to the criminal legal system.

Hannah Zadeh headshot
Hannah Zadeh

Hannah Zadeh of Ankeny, Iowa, graduated from Iowa in 2021 with honors in sociology and is in their first year of doctoral training in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Iowa. They are studying the sociology of organizations, politics, and science with a focus on how data and social categories like race and gender/sex are understood and used in the health care system. Zadeh’s research is under the supervision of Louise Seamster in the Department of Sociology and Criminology and African American Studies and Martha Carvour in the Department of Internal Medicine at UI Health Care. 

The following Iowa students and a recent graduate were recognized with honorable mentions:

Rose Gogal, biomedical engineering, UI College of Engineering

Andrej Corkovic, of Rock Island, Illinois, Department of Chemistry, UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Carly Donahue of Bettendorf, Iowa, biomedical engineering, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities