Eight U of A Students Selected as NSF Graduate Research Fellows

NSF Graduate Research Fellows (no picture is available for Craig McLean)
Photo Submitted

NSF Graduate Research Fellows (no picture is available for Craig McLean)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Eight University of Arkansas students – four undergraduates, three graduate students, and one recent graduate – have received National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships for the upcoming academic year. The highly competitive awards are made to students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and recognizes academic excellence and the potential contribution that each student will make to his or her field and to society at large.

These NSF Graduate Research Fellows are:

  • Gabrielle Abraham, of Jonesboro
  • Stephanie Cone, of Little Rock
  • Ryan DuChanois, of Greenland
  • John Kenneth George, of Farmington
  • Craig McLean, of Kingwood, Texas
  • Michael Reinisch, of Düsseldorf, Germany
  • Heather Sandefur, of Fayetteville
  • Meredith Swartwout of Troutville, Virginia

Each fellowship is worth $34,000 per year and can be renewed for up to three years. Along with the renewable stipend, each student’s institution will receive $12,000 per year to offset tuition costs, bringing the total amount of funding awarded to these eight students to more than $1 million.

In addition to the Fellows, eight more U of A students received honorable mentions: Jonathan Mishler, a recent graduate; graduate students Johnathan Blanchard, Michaela Mertz, Sasha Rojas, Anna Salomaa, and Addison Walker; and undergraduates Bryce Jones and Jordana Thibado.

“The University of Arkansas has a remarkable record of students receiving the NSF GRFP, one of the most distinguished awards a student pursuing graduate research in a STEM field can receive,” said Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz. “A brief review of the eight stellar students who received Fellowships and of those who received honorable mention makes clear why. They are remarkable individuals. 

“The University of Arkansas has had a long history of including undergraduates in research, which clearly makes them more competitive as they move into their graduate careers.”

Since 1952, when the grants were first awarded, 121 University of Arkansas students have received this prestigious fellowship. 

“The College of Engineering is pleased and very proud to have so many of our students recognized by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program,” said John English, dean of the College of Engineering. “The awards are highly competitive and point to the exceptional accomplishments of our students and the dedicated faculty who support them. And faculty members like professor Magda El-Shenawee, who have direct experience with the NSF GRFP selection process, go that extra mile to help students even beyond those working directly in their own labs, participating in information and writing workshops and providing advice to a wide swath of students.”

Todd Shields, dean of the J. William College of Arts and Sciences, agreed that mentoring from faculty is critical for student success at this level: “Our students are able to compete nationally in part because of the unstinting support faculty provide. Our students also benefit from financial resources that undergraduates at most universities do not have. Our students apply for State Undergraduate Research Fellowships, for Sturgis research funds, and for Honors College research grants. These awards in turn help create exceptional academic experiences that pave the way for continued achievement.” 

University of Arkansas students and recent alumni interested in applying for scholarship and fellowships such as the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship should contact the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards at awards@uark.edu or 479-575-3771. More information is available at awards.uark.edu.


Gabrielle Abraham

Gabrielle Abraham is a senior honors physics major in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. She was recently awarded a 2016 SURF grant for her research with Joseph Herzog, visiting assistant professor of physics. Abraham will begin working on a doctorate in physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara this fall.

Stephanie Cone

Stephanie Cone graduated from the U of A in 2014 with an honors degree in biomedical engineering from the College of Engineering. Her undergraduate research mentor was Kartik Balachandran, assistant professor of biomedical engineering. Cone is currently a doctoral student in biomedical engineering at North Carolina State University.

Ryan DuChanois

Ryan DuChanois is a senior honors civil engineering major in the College of Engineering. He was recently named a 2016 Gates Cambridge Scholar and will begin studying for his master’s degree in engineering at the University of Cambridge in the fall. His research mentor is Wen Zhang, assistant professor of civil engineering.

John Kenneth George

John Kenneth George graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2015 with an honors degree in electrical engineering. He will begin working on a doctorate in electrical engineering at the U of A in the fall under Simon Ang, professor of electrical engineering.

Craig McLean is a senior honors chemistry and mathematics major in Fulbright College. His research mentor is Paul Adams, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and he has also worked closely with Stefan Kilyanek and Maria Tjani.

Michael Reinisch

Michael Reinisch is a senior honors chemical engineering and physics student in the College of Engineering and Fulbright College. He was recently awarded a 2016 SURF grant for his research with Bob Beitle, professor of chemical engineering and associate vice provost for research and economic development, and Reinisch was also named a 2016 Udall Scholar. He will be attending the University of Colorado-Boulder for graduate work.

Heather Sandefur

Heather Sandefur is a master’s student in chemical engineering at the U of A, where she also earned a bachelor’s degree in biological engineering. Her research mentors are Marty Matlock, professor of ecological engineering, and Jamie Hestekin, associate professor of chemical engineering and the Jim L. Turpin Endowed Professor in Chemical and Biochemical Separations.

Meredith Swartwout

Meredith Swartwout is a doctoral student in biology at the University of Arkansas. Her research mentor is J.D. Willson, assistant professor of biological sciences. She earned an undergraduate degree in biology from Virginia Tech.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Suzanne McCray, director
Office of Nationally Competitive Awards
479-575-4883, smccray@uark.edu

Steve Voorhies, manager, media relations
University Relations
479-575-3583, voorhies@uark.edu


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