Seven U of A Students Named NSF Graduate Research Fellows

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Seven University of Arkansas students – two undergraduates and five graduate students – have received National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

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 seven students to nearly $1 million.

The highly competitive awards are given to students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and recognize academic excellence and the potential contribution that each student will make to his or her field and to society at large.

Since 1952, when the grants were first awarded, 142 University of Arkansas students have received this prestigious fellowship. 

The NSF Graduate Research Fellows from the U of A are:

  • Tobias Dwyer, chemical engineering, Rogers, Arkansas
  • Andrew Larey, biomedical engineering, Hot Springs, Arkansas
  • Julia Loshelder, civil engineering, Flower Mound, Texas
  • Jason Steck, mechanical engineering, Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Garrett Tatum, civil engineering, Van Buren, Arkansas
  • Natalie Von Tress, biological engineering, Arlington, Texas
  • Simon Tye, biological sciences, Kearney, Nebraska

In addition to the Fellows, eight more U of A students or former students received honorable mentions: graduate students Olga Brazhkina (Emory University), James Burrow (University of Texas at Austin), Cody Canote (University of Arkansas), Karli Lipinski (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Sarah Williams (Vanderbilt University), and undergraduate students Kaley Collins, Kathryn Judy and Guillermo Tellez, who are all currently attending the University of Arkansas.

“To be selected for this nationally prestigious graduate recognition and support, these University of Arkansas students must have engaged in extensive research, have thrived academically, and have given back to their communities,” said U of A Chancellor Joe Steinmetz. “The selection process is rigorous. Recipients must compile the highest possible record in both course work and research as well as demonstrate the broader impact of the work they are doing and hope to do. The University of Arkansas extends an enthusiastic congratulations to these students. This recognition places them among the very top STEM student researchers in the country. Their successes reflect well on them, their research mentors, their departments and colleges, the university, and the state, and their future work will no doubt benefit us all.”

nsf fellowship recipients

Tobias Dwyer graduated with honors from the U of A in 2019 with a degree in chemical engineering where he researched modeling of electrochemical struvite recovery under mentor Lauren Greenlee, associate professor of chemical engineering. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan.

“I am honored to have received the exquisite mentorship and opportunities afforded to me at the University of Arkansas,” said Dwyer. “From the awesome Dr. Lauren Greenlee, whose lab I worked in for three years, to taking classes from Dr. Heather Walker, whose thermodynamics course greatly inspired me, I cannot thank everyone who supported me enough.”

Andrew Larey is an honors biomedical engineering senior in the College of Engineering at the U of A. He is an Honors College Fellow and Governor’s Distinguished Scholar. He researches optical metabolic imaging with Timothy Muldoon, associate professor of biomedical engineering. Larey will pursue his Ph.D. in engineering with a biomedical engineering emphasis from the University of Georgia in Athens.

"The NSF GRF will be a huge facilitator in propelling my graduate career as I work on improving clinical translation of mesenchymal stem cell-based therapies at the University of Georgia,” said Larey. “I am thankful for all of the mentorship I have received along the way that has helped me get to this point, and I will strive to capitalize on this opportunity to produce high quality, beneficial research."

Julia Loshelder is an honors civil engineering senior in the College of Engineering. Her undergraduate research with Richard Coffman, associate professor of civil engineering, focuses on methods to determine the moisture content of soil through remote sensing. She will continue her education at the U of A pursuing her doctorate in civil engineering.

“This fellowship will allow me to build upon my undergraduate research experiences as I pursue a doctoral degree in the field of geotechnical engineering at the University of Arkansas,” reported Loshelder. “Through this award, I will have the opportunity to obtain laboratory experiences at a national and international level which will prepare me for my future career in academia. I am honored to be selected for such a significant award that recognizes the future STEM leaders for our country and for our world.”

Jason Steck graduated with honors from the U of A in 2018 with his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in chemistry. While at the U of A, Steck researched mechanics of nanostructured surfaces with enhanced tribological properties with Min Zou, professor of mechanical engineering. He is currently a Ph.D. student at Harvard University studying materials science and mechanical engineering.

“For my last two years at the U of A, I researched the mechanics of nanostructured surfaces under professor Min Zou,” said Steck. “I have since begun a Ph.D. program at Harvard University in materials science, where I study the mechanics of soft materials under Professor Zhigang Suo. In my work, I am driven to both design materials that are useful for practical applications and understand the physics behind their function. Receiving the NSF GRF validates my approach to science and will empower me in undertaking ambitious research projects in the future.”

Garrett Tatum graduated with his undergraduate degree in honors civil engineering from the U of A in 2019. Tatum researched under mentor Gary Prinz, associate professor of civil engineering, where he sought to design a cheap and easy-to-use structural health monitoring sensor to monitor seismic connection rotations in steel buildings during earthquakes. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in civil engineering with a concentration in structural engineering from Ohio State University.

“I am very thankful to the Department of Civil Engineering and the Honors College for providing me with foundational research experiences,” said Tatum. “This fellowship will allow me to do my part in engineering safe, resilient, and sustainable homes and infrastructure. I am grateful for this opportunity, and it would not have been possible without my experience at the University of Arkansas. Go Hogs!!”

Natalie Von Tress graduated in May 2019 with an honors degree in biological engineering. Von Tress conducted her undergraduate research under Wen Zhang, associate professor of civil engineering, where she researched the effects of titanium- and iron-based nanoparticles on Microcystis aeruginosa, a cyanobacterium commonly found in harmful algal blooms. She is currently pursuing her master's degree under Natalie Nelson in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University.

“I'm incredibly excited and humbled to receive a 2020 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship,” said Tress. “I would not have been able to achieve this without the experience I gained while at the University of Arkansas.”

Simon Tye is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in biological sciences at the U of A under research mentor Adam Siepielski, associate professor of biological sciences. His dissertation is focused on the ecological and evolutionary implications of mass mortality events – catastrophic die-offs that affect all demographic classes and rapidly occur relative to an organism’s generation time. Tye graduated in 2017 with his undergraduate degree in wildlife biology from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

“Five years ago, I was a college dropout,” said Tye. “Receiving this fellowship would not have been possible without the unwavering support of my family, undergraduate advisors, and Dr. Adam Siepielski. I am excited for all that lies ahead and to be given an opportunity to learn more about the natural world.”

“As a former reviewer for the NSF, I know how much value is placed on research collaborations that are crucial to the learning and discovery that is at the heart of our work here at the U of A,” said Jim Coleman, University of Arkansas Provost.  “It is also clear how much our new NSF Graduate Research Fellows and Honorable Mentions value these collaborations as well.  These student have pursued exceptional work in tandem with exceptional faculty members.  That University of Arkansas has seven NSF Graduate Research Fellows and eight honorable mentions is a real testament to the quality of our students and the quality of interaction they enjoy in their departments and colleges at the University of Arkansas.”

NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Since 1952, the National Science Foundation has awarded the highly competitive Graduate Research Fellowship to over 50,000 students in the STEM fields. The graduate fellowship program is one of the NSF’s oldest and most highly competitive, with roots in the foundation’s original 1950 charter. Each year, approximately 2,000 applicants are selected through a rigorous NSF peer-review process. Each grant supports graduate study that leads to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree. NSF Graduate Research Fellows are promising young mathematicians, scientists and engineers who are expected to pursue lifelong careers marked by significant contributions to research, teaching and industrial applications in science, mathematics and engineering.

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

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 fewer than 3 percent of colleges and 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, vice provost for enrollment
Director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards


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