Jillian Cieslik, a senior at Ball State University, and two recent graduates—Isabelle Behrman and Kelsey Woodruff—have been selected for the coveted National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP).

The NSF GRFP 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 at accredited U.S. institutions.

Approximately 2,000 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships were awarded nationwide this year to graduating seniors and to first- and second-year graduate students, to help “ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States.” Selected fellows receive a generous living stipend for three years, and their graduate institutions also receive a tuition and fees allowance for three years.

Ms. Cieslik, a Ball State Honors College student majoring in biology (genetics) with a minor in piano, has worked as an undergraduate research assistant in an aquatic microbe ecology lab. Her many extracurricular activities include serving as both vice president and president of the Natural Resources and Environmental Management Club.

Off campus, Ms. Cieslik completed a Field Museum Women in Science Internship in Chicago, and last Summer, she interned in the botany department of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, through an NSF-funded REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates).

This Fall, Ms. Cieslik will begin a doctorate program in ecology and evolutionary biology at Washington University in St. Louis. Her career goal is to become a research botanist at a natural history museum or botanical garden.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with plants to uncover their evolutionary history and the selective pressures on the development of key traits,” said Ms. Cieslik, a Lake in the Hills, Ill., native.

Fellowships were also awarded to two recent Ball State graduates:

  • Ms. Behrman (2023 graduate) had majors in chemistry and Spanish at Ball State, and for more than three years she helped conduct chemistry research on a newly developed acid. In 2022, she received a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes outstanding undergrads in STEM fields. She is completing the first year of a doctorate program in materials science and engineering at Northwestern University as a member of the Sustainable Polymer Innovation Lab. In her career, Ms. Behrman—a Muncie native—plans to teach at the university lab and lead a lab focused on sustainable polymers.
  • Ms. Woodruff (2022 graduate) completed majors in chemistry (biochemistry) and pre-medical preparation at Ball State, along with minors in French and biology and the Honors College curriculum. She conducted research in a cell biology lab at Ball State for three years and participated in an REU program at the University of Michigan. Ms. Woodruff is now a second-year doctorate student in molecular and cell biology at the University of Washington, where she studies the role of sugars on the cell’s surface in regulating signaling necessary for cancer cell growth and chemotherapy resistance. The Richmond, Ind., native is preparing for a career as a researcher and science writer and communicator.

Two other recent Ball State graduates were also selected honorable mention for the NSF GRFP:

  • Lauren Andrews (2022 graduate) completed a major in chemistry, a minor in biology, and the Honors College curriculum at Ball State. She is now a second-year doctorate student in chemistry at the University of Virginia, where she is making compounds that have the potential to become a treatment option for patients with glioblastoma. After completing her degree, Ms. Andrews—an Ada, Mich., native—wants to work in the field of pharmaceutical research and development.
  • Kayle Bender (2022 graduate) had majors in biology and chemistry at Ball State. She is now a second-year doctorate student in chemistry at University of California, Davis, where she is studying changes in the biomolecules of the central nervous system during development (birth to adulthood) in mice, with a focus on specific carcinoma tumors. After graduate school, Ms. Bender—who is from Fishers, Ind.—wants to work in the biotech industry.

For more information about the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, visit www.nsfgrfp.org.