UAB student awarded NSF grant for graduate research

A UAB student has won a prestigious National Science Foundation grant; three UAB students received honorable mentions.

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Jessica Winek. Download image.

University of Alabama at Birmingham student Jessica Winek has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Three UAB students also received Honorable Mentions: Ruth McDowell of Akron, Ohio; Jacob Nelson of Huntsville; and Matthew Schultz of Roswell, Ga.

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 master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. This program offers up to three years of graduate school support worth more than $120,000 to each winner. Benefits include a $30,000 annual stipend, a $10,500 annual cost-of-education allowance, international research and professional development opportunities and access to TeraGrid supercomputing facilities.

Winek, 24, of Brentwood, Tenn., is a first-year graduate student in the UAB Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology program. She received the award based on her undergraduate record at the University of Georgia and international research, her proposed graduate research project and her desire to be involved with community outreach and education, she says. Winek also is in the UAB Howard Hughes Med-Grad Program.

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Ruth McDowell in Antarctica. Download image.

“Receiving the NSF GRFP is a great honor. I would like to thank my mentor Dr. Michael Miller for his help, and I look forward to progressing my research through this fellowship,” Winek says.

Miller, Ph.D., is associate professor of the department of Cell Biology. Winek is the daughter of David and Janet Winek.

Winek’s research involves the model C. elegans to study how proteins related to Lou Gehrig’s disease and spinal muscular atrophy are secreted from nerve cells. “I am very excited about this project because I will be able to contribute to the knowledge of unconventional secretion mechanisms, which is a growing area of interest in the scientific community,” she says.

“We are so pleased that Jessica’s innovative research and commitment to outreach and service has been recognized with this prestigious fellowship,” says UAB President Carol Garrison. “That the NSF awarded this grant to a UAB student for the fourth time in three years, along with three honorable mentions, is a testament to the competitiveness of our graduate programs and our research enterprise.”   

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Jake Nelson. Download image.

McDowell, 26, who received an Honorable Mention, is currently spending her second field season in Antarctica, conducting doctoral research on chemical defenses of Antarctic macroalgae. She names professors Charles Amsler, Ph.D., and Jim McClintock, Ph.D., in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology as her mentor and co-mentor. Her career goal is to be a research professor. She is the daughter of Tom and Nancy McDowell.

Nelson, 23, is in his second semester of graduate school in the School of Engineering, working towards a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He is involved in computational fluid-dynamics research. He plans to earn a doctorate and pursue a career in engineering. He is the son of Alan and Lori Nelson.

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Matthew Schultz. Download image.

Matthew Schultz, 25, is a first-year graduate student in the Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine doctoral program. He works in the laboratory of Professor Susan Bellis, Ph.D., in the School of Medicine Department of Physiology and Biophysics, studying glycobiology and its role in cancer progression. His career goal is to become a research professor. He is the son of Dutch and Linda Schultz.

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