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Three UCF Scholars Win NSF GRFP

Posted by on Sunday, April 30, 2017 23:17 - 0 Comments


In March of 2017, three McNair scholars from the University of Central Florida (UCF) were awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. The three scholars were among only 2,000 students selected nationwide to receive the award. In addition, the UCF McNair Program had a scholar who received honorable mention this year.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based masters and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. The program’s purpose is to ensure a diverse population among the scientific and engineering fields. Benefits include a three-year annual stipend of $34,000, a $12,000 annual cost-of-education allowance, international research and professional development opportunities.

The three scholars awarded the fellowships are excited about their future research careers.  Antonia Bass is in her second year in the Doctoral Program in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Pennsylvania.  Stephanie Quiles-Matos is in her first year in the Doctoral Program in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech.  Samantha Mensah graduates this year from UCF and will be attending a doctoral program in Chemistry.

When asked how the McNair Program assisted them, each of the scholars emphasized the importance of the personal and graduate school preparation support the program provided. Quiles-Matos stated, “Honestly, I would not even be in graduate school without the support and mentorship that the McNair Scholar program provided me. As a McNair Scholar I was encouraged to participate in research, a concept I was unfamiliar with as a first-generation student. The McNair team helped me realize, that even as a non-traditional student, I could achieve my goals of graduating college and going onto graduate school.”

Mensah explained that she received much technical support in regards to the NSF GRFP application. “The staff of McNair are extremely knowledgeable on how to make a great application. We work on specific sections such as broader impacts and presenting research from the very beginning of the program. My entire cohort in McNair was working on our applications together and there was an entire team of people helping and checking each other’s work.” Beyond technical help, Mensah appreciated the community created by the McNair program. “McNair is a family. Scholars and mentors that support and lift each other up and always cheer the other on. It can be daunting to tread the waters of academia, especially graduate school, but McNair has been a large reason why I feel confident in my next step.”

Bass highlighted that the support she received from McNair inspired her to give back. “I believe my participation in the McNair program played a great part in getting to where I am today. Their effort to promote underrepresented and first-generation students in STEM fields was what inspired me to pursue a PhD and expand my knowledge within the field of biology. The experience I attained during my participation in the McNair Program motivated me to become a role model for other diverse individuals to pursue a STEM degree and career. I am proud to be a part of a group of graduate scholars focused on fostering the success of underrepresented scientists, which is an important goal that is supported by the NSF GRFP.”

Since 2007,  fifteen University of Central Florida McNair scholars have been awarded NSF fellowships and four scholars have received honorable mentions. The program sends a special thanks to Dr. Robin Walker from the University of Missouri, Columbia for her amazing work with the scholars over the past several years.

UCF McNair Scholar Winners, Current Graduate Institutions, and Year Awarded:

  • Antonia Bass, University of Pennsylvania (2017)
  • Stephanie Matos, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (2017)
  • Samantha Mensah (2017)
  • Serenela Pelier, University of Florida (2016)
  • Monica Thomas, Duke University (2013)
  • Tatiana Viecco, Cambridge University (2013)
  • Lilian Milanes, University of Kentucky (2012)
  • Christina Restrepo, University of Central Florida (2012)
  • Elise Hernandez, University of Michigan (2011)
  • Rene Diaz, Georgia Tech University (2010)
  • Keon Vereen, University of Washington (2010)
  • Anamary Leal, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (2010)
  • Roberto Miguez, University of Michigan (2009)
  • Melonie Sexton Williams, Vanderbilt University (2009)
  • Enrique Ortiz, University of Central Florida (2007)