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Verne M. Willaman Gateway to the Sciences.

Three Eberly College of Science students offered graduate funding from National Science Foundation

7 April 2021

Three Penn State Eberly College of Science students pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees earned fellowship offers from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) and five students who are part of or affiliated with our doctoral programs were awarded honorable mentions. The new awardees are Caleb Butler, Connor Olson, and Haley Young.

Caleb Butler in the ecology program, the Huck Institutes of Life Sciences, advised by Todd Lajuenesse (biology) submitted his application to investigate if interspecific competition between algal symbionts in corals influences partner specificity and flexibility.

Connor Olson in the department of mathematics, advised by Timothy Reluga, proposed adapting the Kermack-McKendrick SIR epidemic model into a differential game to study the efficacy of social distancing as an intervention to an epidemic.

Haley Young from the department of chemistry, advised by Raymond Schaak,  was awarded a grant to support her research on grafting semiconducting polymers to the surfaces of Janus nanoparticles with the goal of synthesizing hybrid materials.

“Every year our college, as well as the graduate school, offers various workshops to help students with the process of applying either in their first or second year of graduate school,” said Aleksandra (Seša) Slavković, associate dean for graduate education. “Eberly College of Science is extremely proud of our current fellows, and those who have received honorable mentions, and is looking forward to highlighting some of their achievements. We congratulate them and their advisors on this accomplishment.”


The purpose of the NSF GRFP is to help ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing full-time research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements. The NSF estimates that 2,000 awards are made each year, with anticipated funding of $138,000 per award.

Any student interested in learning more about the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, or those who would like feedback on application materials, are encouraged to contact the Graduate School University Fellowships Office ( or Eberly’s Graduate Education Dean’s Office.


The following students received NSF GRFP honorable mentions.

Trevor Drees, ecology, advised by Katriona Shea, biology

Emily Gagne, ecology, advised by George Perry, biology

Vaughn Parts, astronomy and astrophysics, advised by Suvrath Mahadevan

Olivia Peduzzi, chemistry, advised by Amie Boal

Erica Ryu, biology, advised by Emily Davenport