Eight Pomona College Alumni Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

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Eight Pomona College alumni have won 2024 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) awards. This fellowship supports superlative students who are pursuing or planning to pursue full-time research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education.

The NSF fellowship provides each student an annual $37,000 stipend and $12,000 cost of education allowance for three years over a five-year fellowship period.

Zoë Batterman ’24

A mathematics major by way of New Orleans, Louisiana, Batterman will attend the University of Cambridge in the fall to complete a yearlong MPhil by research under the guidance of Professor Dhruv Ranganathan in pure mathematics. After working in an area known as algebraic geometry, she will complete a Ph.D. in pure mathematics at Harvard University. “The fellowship will allow me to take a deep dive in understanding the differences between the arithmetic and geometric monodromy groups,” Batterman says, “with the aim of furthering our understanding of dynamics, number theory, and algebraic geometry.”

Vera Berger ’23

Berger double majored in mathematics and physics while at Pomona and served as ASPC President. The Albuquerque, New Mexico, native is an MPhil candidate in scientific computing at the University of Cambridge and will return stateside this fall to begin a Ph.D. in physics at MIT. Berger is pursuing a career in astrophysics research. “I’m interested in using observations across the entire spectrum of light to study some of the highest-energy objects in the universe,” she says. Of Pomona, she adds, “My professors had such a strong impact on my interest and confidence in science, and I enjoyed working as a mentor and taking classes on inclusive pedagogy at Pomona.”

Berger is interested in becoming a university professor.

Dylan McCuskey ’23

McCuskey majored in physics and minored in English at Pomona and will attend the University of Colorado at Boulder this fall for a Ph.D. in physics. The Smithfield, Utah, native plans to pursue a career in academia, ideally teaching physics at a liberal arts college. “With this fellowship,” he says, “I’ll be studying biophysics at CU Boulder. I’m not entirely sure what specific research I will conduct, but currently I’m interested in two groups, one that does optical trap and AFM measurements to examine single molecule behavior and one that computationally studies the dynamics of microtubules and other proteins.”

Madisun (Mars) Woodward ’23

A biology and Africana studies major by way of Milwaukee, Woodward will attend the University of Michigan this fall for a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology.

“This fellowship will allow me to pursue research about the disease ecology of bats in Belize, Guatemala and Brazil!” they say. “I am interested in the convergence of disease ecology, conservation and environmental justice.”

Woodward plans to become an ecology and evolution professor.

Nathan Friede ’22

Under the tutelage of Associate Professor Nicholas Ball, Friede majored in chemistry at Pomona and is presently at Caltech studying organic chemistry with the goal of becoming a research chemist.

The NSF fellowship will allow the Fayetteville, Arkansas, native to research the use of next-generation reductive strategies including electrochemistry in the synthesis of complex bioactive molecules.

Kaylee Null ’20

Null, a psychological science major from Pass Christian, Mississippi, is pursuing her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at UCLA. She works with Michelle Craske and collaborators on studies of stress, reward systems, and symptom dimensions relevant to depression and anxiety—such as anhedonia and worry—using data from neuroimaging, treatment studies, and longitudinal research. Null, who’s working toward a research-oriented career in an academic setting, says the NSF fellowship will allow her “to pursue research in which I aim to examine how life stress and trauma exposure impact neural reward systems” with goals “to advance current understandings of the development and maintenance of internalizing disorders, to clarify the complex impacts of stress and trauma on the brain and behavior, and, ultimately, to contribute to improvements in treatment approaches and outcomes.”

Gloria Liou ’18

After double majoring in computer science and cognitive science at Pomona, Liou started studying psychology at Purdue University. Her proposed research program for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program “examines whether automated video interviews (AVIs) can be used to assess a variety of individual traits, such as personality, authenticity and character,” she says. Liou, of Saratoga, California, currently is in the data collection phase of her first study in this research area, and the study will be a part of her master's thesis. “I plan to work on something at the intersection of computer science and psychology for my Ph.D. dissertation as well,” she says.

Alumna Kehlani Fay ’23 also received an NSF GRFP award.

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program is the country’s oldest fellowship program that directly supports graduate students in various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. Since 1952, NSF has funded over 60,000 Graduate Research Fellowships out of more than 500,000 applicants.