Students to pursue graduate research with NSF fellowships

A group of four Florida State University students have received highly competitive Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation.

The fellowship program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees.

Fellows receive an annual stipend of $34,000 over three years, which allows them to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education. The stipend includes a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, opportunities for international research and professional development.

“This accomplishment demonstrates the dedication of our students and Florida State University to transforming the future of STEM through graduate education, research and service,” said Adrienne P. Stephenson, director of FSU’s Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards. “Applying for and obtaining a prestigious fellowship is a very competitive process. The success of our students is a testament to FSU’s commitment to empower students to boldly seek opportunities that add value to their graduate education.”

Florida State’s 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program recipients are:


Tessa Eve Bartges, 22, a senior from Bradenton, Fla., is pursuing dual degrees in chemistry and anthropology. She will use her fellowship to study analytical chemistry as she works toward a doctorate conducting bioanalytical research at the University of North Carolina.

“I am extremely honored to receive a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship,” Bartges said. “I know that it will allow me to make the most out of my time at UNC-Chapel Hill and help me to develop into a productive member of the scientific community.”


Stella Nicole Min, 30, is a first-year sociology doctoral student from Denver. Min is interested in studying the demographic processes related to family dynamics, such as marriage and childbearing. She will use her fellowship to research student loan debt and the transition to adulthood.

“Student borrowing is now the predominant method of financing costs associated with higher education in the United States, and today’s graduates attempt to establish financial independence under fairly large debt burdens,” Min said. “With little known about the consequences of student loans on later life outcomes, it is increasingly important that researchers and policymakers fully investigate the potential negative outcomes that may incur to young adults holding educational debt.”

Min earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado.

Jessie-MutzJessie Mutz, 28, from Oviedo, Fla., is pursuing a doctorate in ecology and evolution with a focus on interactions between plants and insects. She is interested in how differences in the way that herbivorous insects respond to their plant resources, predators and competitors could lead to spatial sorting and affect population dynamics.

“For me, the most exciting part of this award is that it opens up new opportunities for travel, teaching and research,” Mutz said. “One thing I’m interested in is how science is communicated — by scientists and by others — and this award gives me the latitude to think about these things along with my primary research interests in ecology and evolution.”

Mutz earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.


Micaiah Ward, 29, from Austin, Texas, is pursuing a doctorate in cellular and molecular biology. The main focus of her research is venom, from scorpions and centipedes to snakes. She is trying to identify molecular targets of venom toxins by evolving resistance in fruit flies and tracking genetic changes that contribute to toxin resistance over time.

“When I found out about receiving the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, it felt like I had just won the science lottery,” Ward said. “I put a lot of effort into writing my proposal, as well as developing myself as a scientist and valuable member of the community through volunteer work. This is a highly competitive fellowship, and I am truly honored to be a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. I am still pinching myself.”

Ward earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Three FSU undergraduate students received honorable mentions in this year’s fellowship competition: Joseph Accardo (Chemistry), Molly Rae Gordon (Life Sciences) and Ever Onery Velasquez (Chemical Engineering). In addition, a group of seven graduate students received honorable mentions: William Wesley Booker (Biological Science), Michael Butler (Neuroscience/Psychology), Sarah Cox (Special Education), Lindsey Hicks (Psychology), Josue Liriano (Chemistry), Heather Maranges (Psychology) and Katelin Stanley (Biological Science).
The National Science Foundation received nearly 17,000 applications and offered 2,000 fellowships in the 2016 competition.