Graduate Students Earn Competitive Research Fellowships

Katrina Phillips

Katrina Phillips, pursuing doctoral degree in conservation biology at UCF

UCF has a lot to brag about after eight students were notified they earned graduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation.

The fellowships are highly competitive and recognize outstanding graduate students and their demonstrated potential “for significant achievements in science and engineering.” More than 16,000 students nationwide applied for the fellowships. Only 2,000 students were selected.

Of the eight students selected from the university, three were College of Sciences students.

Chris Clukay has earned degrees in multicultural humanities and chemistry from UCF and is pursuing a master’s and Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Florida.  While at UCF, Clukay received guidance from Dr. Tosha Dupras from the department of anthropology. He was part of the Nanophotonic Materials Group in the College of Optics & Photonics, with supervision from Dr. Stephen Kuebler. His research under Dr. Kuebler resulted in two peer-reviewed publications.  Clukay was also a technical director for the cultural research group Chinavine with which he traveled to China for research. Clukay received a Beckman Fellowship for work he completed during the summers of 2010 and 2011. Clukay is part of a team conducting a study looking at how the stresses of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo affect the regulation of genes for pregnant women and their children through a process called epigenetics. The work is an attempt to highlight the hidden, and possibly heritable, effects of the continuing 20-year war in the region as well as bring more attention to it. The team is working with the HEAL Africa Hospital. Clukay hopes to become a college professor, but he first plans to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.

Katrina Phillips is pursuing a doctoral degree in conservation biology and works in the Marine Turtle Research Group with biologist Kate Mansfield. While pursuing her master’s degree she focused on a loggerhead sea turtle nesting beach near Naples, FL, where she estimated the survival rate for the females nesting there and used satellite tags to track where they went after nesting. Her Ph.D. research will focus on younger sea turtles of various species that live offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Phillips will look at the turtles’ habitat use, and how their habitats change as they grow.

Jessica Siler earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology with honors in 2014. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in cognitive psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While at UCF she worked with professor Peter Hancock in the Minds in Technology Lab and was a research assistant in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems.  She also spent a year working in the Applied Cognition and Technology lab under associate professors Valerie Sims and Matthew Chin. Her focus was on memory and the Google generation.

Winners get three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period in the amount of $34,000 each year. The universities where students are completing their studies also get $12,000 to cover the cost of tuition and other fees. It is expected the students will earn a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in science or engineering. Fellows also have opportunities for international research collaborations through the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide initiative and professional career development with federal internships provided through the Graduate Research Internship Program.

To read the full story and view all recipients from the university, click here.

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