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A University Best: 14 Aggies Honored in NSF Grad Research Fellow Search

Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014

USU NSF Fellows Lisa Green, Sara Kelly and Bryan Stringham

USU's 2014 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows include, from left, Lisa Green, Environment and Society; Sara Kelly, Watershed Sciences and Bryan Stringham, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

USU alums named NSF Graduate Research Fellows

USU alums named 2014 NSF Graduate Research Fellows are, clockwise from top left, Rachel Brown '13, Chris Martin’11, MS’13; Ben Shurtz’13, MS’13 and Ben Morris’12.

It was a banner year for Utah State University and the search for National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows. A university-best 14 Aggies were honored.

Utah State University’s 2014 NSF Graduate Research Fellows are current graduate students Lisa Green (Environment and Society), Sara Kelly (Watershed Sciences) and graduating senior Bryan Stringham ’14 (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), along with USU alums Rachel R. Brown ’13 (Family, Consumer and Human Development, USU Uintah Basin), Chris Martin ’11, MS’13 (Political Science and Economics), Ben Morris ’12 (Biology) and Benjamin K. Shurtz ’13, MS’13 (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering).

Receiving honorable mentions are USU graduating senior J. Tyler Gish ’14 (Chemistry and Biochemistry and Physics); USU graduate students Jimmy Marty (Watershed Sciences and Ecology Center), Kyle Nehring (Wildland Resources and Ecology Center) and Elizabeth Ogata (Biology and Ecology Center), as well as USU alums Kevin R. Cope ’13 (Biology), Kyle Mackay ’13 (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering) and Brian Pincock ’12 (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering).

“NSF Graduate Research Fellowships are the nation’s most prestigious graduate awards in science and engineering,” said USU President Stan Albrecht. “The fact that 14 Aggies are among this year’s honorees is a solid testament to the outstanding quality of our university’s academic and research programs, as well as the high caliber of our students and faculty.”

Recipients receive a three-year annual stipend of $32,000, and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance is paid to the graduate institution.

In its announcement of recipients, USU considers four categories:

  • Current USU graduate students
  • Current USU undergraduates (graduating senior who may be pursuing grad study at USU or elsewhere)
  • Recent USU graduates (within 1-2 years) who are pursuing grad study elsewhere
  • Incoming USU graduate students (who completed their undergrad study elsewhere)

The 2014 Recipients

Lisa Green (Fellow), Human Dimensions of Ecosystem Science and Management

Doctoral student Lisa Green, who conducts research with faculty advisor Claudia Radel, is studying human vulnerability to climate change in rural southeast Mexico. The Alaska native is focusing on how changing weather patterns affect people’s ability to grow crops and make a living.

Green was a 2013 recipient of the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers’ Oscar H. Horst Field Study Award

Sara Kelly (Fellow), Watershed Science

Doctoral student Sara Kelly, a native of Fullerton, Calif., is a 2012 summa cum laude graduate of California State University, Monterey Bay. With faculty advisor Patrick Belmont, she is investigating landscape erosion, sediment routing and channel morphodynamics in watershed with changing land use and climate conditions.

Kelly says she chose USU because of its program’s emphasis on Earth surface processes — specifically in fluvial geomorphology.

Bryan Stringham (Fellow), Mechanical Engineering

Garden City, Utah, native Bryan Stringham graduates from USU this spring with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. The undergrad began his studies at USU’s Randolph, Utah, regional center and completes his impressive undergraduate career with a 4.0 GPA. With faculty mentor Heng Ban, Stringham investigated the use of USU-produced synthetic spider silk to make flexible thermal links for thermal control systems.

Stringham, who has received a number of awards, including MAE Department Outstanding Pre-Professional of the Year, plans graduate study in mechanical engineering and materials science, using nano-materials to optimize phase change material s for use in thermal management systems.

Rachel R. Brown (Fellow), Human Development and Family Science

USU alum Rachel Brown is a doctoral student at The Ohio State University. The Vernal, Utah, native is studying the rates, predictors and consequences of realized and unrealized marital expectations.

Chris Martin (Fellow), Economics

Springville, Utah, native Chris Martin, a doctoral student at the University of Washington, is investigating how natural resource-dependent economies should adapt to strains such as population growth and climate change.

Ben Morris (Fellow), Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology

USU alum Ben Morris, a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is studying macroecology and climate change, using ecoinformatics and large, diverse datasets to make general, large-scale predictions about the effects of climate change on ecological systems.

Benjamin Shurtz (Fellow), Mechanical Engineering

As an undergraduate and master’s student at USU, Benjamin Shurtz conducted research with faculty mentors Byard Wood and Jason Quinn. Now pursuing a doctorate at The Ohio State University, the Orem, Utah, native’s research focuses on biomechanics and locomotion in the medical field.

J. Tyler Gish (Honorable Mention), Material Science Engineering

Tyler Gish, a dual chemistry and physics major, who graduates with a bachelor’s degree from USU this spring, is the 2014 College of Science valedictorian. During his undergrad career, the 2013 Goldwater Scholar conducted research on epigenetic drug compounds with faculty mentor Clay Isom, as well as biofuels research with faculty mentor Alvan Hengge. The West Jordan, Utah, native plans to pursue graduate studies in material science engineering.

Jimmy Marty (Honorable Mention), Ecology

Jimmy Marty is a master’s student in USU’s Department of Watershed Sciences and the USU Ecology Center. The St. Paul, Minn., native is conducting research on native plant propagation and establishing invasion-resistant plant populations in Great Salt Lake wetlands with faculty advisor Karin Kettenring.

Kyle Nehring (Honorable Mention), Ecology

Salt Lake City native Kyle Nehring is a doctoral student in USU’s Department of Wildland Resources and the USU Ecology Center. With faculty advisor Kari Veblen, Nehring is investigating how herbivory consumed by livestock and wildlife interact with abiotic factors such as precipitation amount and soil depth to alter plant communities. Her research will provide land managers with important basic ecological information about drivers of plant community dynamics.

Elizabeth Ogata (Honorable Mention), Ecology

Elizabeth “Beth” Ogata is a doctoral student in USU’s Department of Biology and the USU Ecology Center. With faculty advisor Michelle Baker, the Winnetka, Ill., native is investigating nutrient dynamics in streams along a gradient of mountain-to-urban environmental conditions.

Kevin Cope (Honorable Mention), Cellular and Molecular Biology

USU alum Kevin Cope is a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Salem, Utah, native is studying the symbiotic molecular signaling pathway between poplar and two of its fungal hosts in an effort to better understand how the tree can be grown for biofuel production.

Kyle Mackay (Honorable Mention), Mechanical Engineering

USU alum Kyle Mackay is a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As an undergrad, Mackay pursued undergraduate research in USU’s Thermal Fluids Lab and completed internships with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Brian Pincock (Honorable Mention), Aerospace Engineering

Brian Pincock graduated summa cum laude from USU in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Now a doctoral student at Stanford University, Pincock, an Undergraduate Research Fellow at USU, completed an undergraduate research internship with ATK.

This year’s USU honorees join 35 Aggies who have received fellowships and 35 USU students or alumni who have received honorable mentions since 1999.

Related link:

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

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