Eight UM Students Receive Nation’s Top STEM Graduate Award

The National Science Foundation announced the awardees and honorable mentions for their 2021 Graduate Research Fellowships Program and the list includes eight University of Montana Students.

MISSOULA ꟷ  A prestigious cohort of outstanding graduate students in STEM research fields across the U.S. includes eight University of Montana students.

The National Science Foundation announced the awardees and honorable mentions for their 2021 Graduate Research Fellowships Program. The program includes a five-year fellowship with the NSF and includes three years of financial support, including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost of education allowance of $12,000 to the student’s current institution.

The awards are given to graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering or math at accredited U.S. institutions. The NSF named two current UM graduate students and two UM alumni as 2021 Fellows, and one UM alumni and three current UM graduate students were named honorable mentions.

“This is one of the biggest awards for graduate students in STEM fields in the country,” said Kylla Benes, director of UM’s office of Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships. “For UM to have eight alumni or current graduate students on this list speaks to UM’s rigor in the sciences and a robust commitment to research excellence and training.”

This year, UM was ranked in the top 10 nationwide for research growth, according to data from the NSF. UM ranked No. 6 nationally for research growth among all universities with more than $100 million in research expenditures, growing from $55 million in 2014 to $104.7 million in 2019.

Research at UM spans a wide range of disciplines, including health sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, natural resources and conservation, mathematical and physical sciences, geosciences, social sciences and computer sciences and engineering.

Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for Research and Creative Scholarship and dean of the UM Graduate School, said the NSF Graduate Research Fellowships speak to UM’s excellence in training undergraduates for postsecondary work and providing graduate students rigorous training and diverse experiences across UM’s research profile.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate these impressive NSF Fellows and honorable mentions who are either UM alumni or current graduate students with us,” Whittenburg said. “UM provides a world-class education and training that’s on par with the nation’s top-funded research priorities. This list is reflective of the country’s next generation of scientists and researchers.”

2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship awardees include:

  • Nicolas Matallana-Mejia, a graduate student at Colorado State University studying ecology and life sciences. Matallana-Mejia received his undergraduate degree from UM.
  • Kendall Edmo, a graduate student at Montana State University studying geosciences, paleontology and paleobiology. Edmo received her undergraduate degree from UM.
  • Cynthia Ulbing, a UM graduate student studying evolutionary biology in the Division of Biological Sciences. Ulbing received her undergraduate degree from Ithaca College.
  • Cierra Keith, a UM graduate studying ecology and life sciences in the Division of Biological Sciences. Keith received her undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University.

2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mentions include:

  • Anthony Marcozzi, a graduate student studying computational science and engineering in UM’s Department of Computer Science. Marcozzi’s undergraduate institution was the University of Missouri-Columbia.
  • Damien Ketcherside, a UM graduate student studying environmental and analytical chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Ketcherside received his undergraduate degree from Lewis-Clark State College.
  • Sarah Sweezy, a UM graduate student studying developmental psychology in UM’s Department of Psychology. Sweezy’s undergraduate institution was Tennessee Technological University.
  • Cody Wallace, a graduate student at the University of Wyoming in life sciences and ecology. Wallace received his undergraduate degree from UM.

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Contact: Kylla Benes, UM director of prestigious scholarships, 406-243-5241, kylla.benes@umontana.edu;Scott Whittenburg, dean of UM Graduate School and vice president of Research and Creative Scholarship, 406-243-6670, scott.whittenburg@umontana.edu.