Science & Technology

Nine Aggies Recognized in NSF Grad Research Fellow Search

Graduate students Jamie Burgess, Samuel Cowell, Kari Norman and Benjamin Pound are among nine Aggies honored in the 2017 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows search.

Nine Utah State University scholars are among the honorees of the prestigious 2017 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship search. The USU scientists were selected from nearly 13,000 applicants nationally.

USU’s 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellows are graduating senior Jamie Kingsford Burgess ’16 (Chemistry and Biochemistry) along with recent USU graduates Kari Norman ’16 (Mathematics and Statistics and Wildland Resources), Benjamin Pound ’15 (Physics) and Rachel Nydegger Rozum ’15 (Physics), as well as USU graduate students Samuel Cowell (Biology/Ecology Center), Lacy Smith (Wildland Resources/Ecology Center), Amy Springer (Biology) and Susan Washko (Watershed Sciences/Ecology Center).

Graduate student Shaley Valentine (Watershed Sciences/Ecology Center) received honorable mention.

Burgess, Norman and Rozum are graduates of USU’s Honors program.

“NSF Graduate Research Fellowships are the nation’s most prestigious graduate awards in science and engineering,” said USU President Noelle Cockett. “We applaud the accomplishments of these young researchers. Their NSF recognition is a testament to the outstanding quality of USU’s academic and research programs, as well as the high caliber of our students and faculty.”

NSF GRFP recipients receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000, along with a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. or foreign institution of graduate education they choose. 

Jamie Kingsford Burgess ‘16 (Fellow), Biochemistry, Utah State University
In the lab of faculty advisor Nicholas Dickenson, Burgess is investigating the activation and regulation of the infection system of the pathogen Shigella and related bacteria. Mindful of the emergence of antibiotic resistance as a global health concern, Burgess, who was named the USU College of Science’s 2017 MS Graduate Student Researcher of the Year, hopes to identify alternative therapeutic targets for these pathogens, which cause human illness.

Samuel Cowell (Fellow), Ecology, Utah State University
A Los Angeles native, Cowell is studying behavior and interactions among woodpeckers and their predators, along with other nest competitors. With Biology Department faculty advisor Kim Sullivan, Cowell is determining behavioral relationships between all animals in woodpecker “nest web.” The master’s student earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Azusa Pacific University in 2014.

Kari Norman ‘16 (Fellow), Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley
A doctoral student, Norman is exploring how people make conservation decisions; specifically the metrics used to determine places most important to conserve and how those metrics change over space and time. A Quinney Scholar and Undergraduate Research Fellow during her USU years, Norman studied the effects of climate change on Uinta ground squirrels with USU Wildland Resources faculty mentor Lise Aubry.

Benjamin Pound ’15 (Fellow), Physics
A USU alum, Pound is deciding among several graduate programs and plans to begin his studies in the fall. Pound explores X-ray imaging and develops algorithms to “make the normally finicky imaging process more robust.” As an undergrad, he worked with USU Physics faculty mentor T-C Shen on a carbon nanotubes project and completed a prestigious National Institute of Standards and Technology Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Washington, D.C. in 2014.

Rachel Nydegger Rozum ’15 (Fellow), Ecology, The Pennsylvania State University
A Cache Valley, Utah native and 2011 graduate of Logan’s Fast Forward Charter High School, Rozum earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from USU in 2015. Named a 2014 Goldwater Scholar, the Honors student conducted research on light pollution. Rozum is pursuing a doctorate in ecology at Penn State, where she’s creating a computer model to characterize how nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus move through ecosystems. Her research will aid farmers in determining best management practices for crops, while mitigating pollution of surrounding watersheds.

Lacy Smith (Fellow), Ecology, Utah State University
A 2008 graduate of the University of California, Davis, Smith is conducting research with Wildland Resources faculty advisor Dan MacNulty. The doctoral student is studying changes to the elk population in northern Yellowstone National Park. She’s interested in what role wolves have played in shaping the elk population, and how wolf interactions with bears and cougars change the influence of predation on the elk population.

Amy Springer (Fellow), Biology, Utah State University
Working with USU Biology faculty advisor Zach Gompert, Springer is broadly interested in the intersection of evolutionary theory and conservation. The doctoral student seeks to understand the survival odds of small, vulnerable populations, and how those odds can be increased, by testing how genetic processes might affect those populations over time. A native of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Springer is a 2015 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Susan Washko (Fellow), Ecology, Utah State University
A master’s student working with USU Watershed Sciences faculty advisor Trisha Atwood, Washko is studying how stream communities change due to beaver dams. Specifically, she is examining how aquatic macroinvertebrate communities differ across beaver-altered and unimpacted habitats, and how those changes affect trout foraging and growth. The Hudson, Ohio native is a 2016 graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Shaley Valentine (Honorable Mention), Ecology, Utah State University
A 2016 graduate of Northern Michigan University, Valentine notes many species are threatened with extinction due to human-altered landscapes and climate change. Using amphibian, reptile, mammal and bird species, the master’s student is examining whether carnivorous species are more prone to extinction than herbivores and omnivores. Valentine is conducting research with USU Watershed Sciences faculty advisor Trisha Atwood.

This year’s USU honorees join 56 Aggies who have received fellowships and 49 USU students or alumni who have received honorable mentions since 1999.

Related Links
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program 

Contact: David Peak, 435-797-2884,
Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

Graduate students Rachel Rozum, Lacy Smith, Amy Springer, Susan Washko and Shaley Valentine are among nine Aggies honored in the 2017 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows search.


Research 814stories Awards 658stories Student Success 282stories

Comments and questions regarding this article may be directed to the contact person listed on this page.

Next Story in Science & Technology

See Also