University of South Carolina

Students and alumni earn NSF Graduate Student Fellowships

By Steven Powell,, 803-777-5400

Six University of South Carolina students and alumni have been selected to receive 2012 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

The three-year fellowships, each worth approximately $125,000, were awarded to Reginald “Reggie” Bain, Tori Espensen-Sturges, Patrick Hankins, Lesley Joseph, Robin Neumayer and Stephen Timko.

Four honorable mentions in this prestigious graduate fellowship competition were also named: Jacqueline Cantwell, Chase W. Nelson, Huong Giang Thai Nguyen and Ronald James “Jim” Talbert.

The graduate fellowship program is one of NSF's oldest, with roots in the foundation’s original 1950 charter, offering support for graduate study in all scientific disciplines. Since 1994, USC students and recent graduates have won 64 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships.

The USC NSF committee comprised Erin Connolly (chair; biological sciences), Brian Habing (statistics), Michael Matthews (chemical engineering), Melayne McInnes (economics) and Ken Shimizu (chemistry and biochemistry).

2012 NSF Graduate Research Fellows

Reginald “Reggie” Bain, of Columbia, is a 2012 South Carolina Honors College graduate with a double major in physics and mathematics. Bain is co-founder and co-director of Carolina Science Outreach, a student organization dedicated to giving science presentations at schools around South Carolina. Passionate about sharing science, he plans to pursue a career in academia as professor of physics at a major research university while working on science outreach initiatives through television, radio, and classroom visits. He holds the Carolina Scholar Olin D. Johnston Memorial Scholarship, and is also the recipient of the Goldwater Scholarship, the CAS Rising Senior Award in Physics and the Polston Family Mathematics Scholarship. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, Bain has also received the Carolina Leadership Scholars Grant and the Magellan Scholars Grant. He is a member of the Pi Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honor Society. Next year he will attend Duke University, supported by the Townes-Perkin Elmer Fellowship, to pursue a doctorate in physics focusing on high-energy particle physics and string theory.

Tori Espensen-Sturges, of McAllen, Texas, is a 2011 South Carolina Honors College graduate with a degree in psychology. A McNair Scholar, she received the psychology department's Rising Senior Award in 2010, the Roger Black Award for Psychological Research in 2011, and also served on the executive board of Changing Carolina. She received both a Magellan grant and a Magellan Voyager for her senior thesis project, "Amelioration of HIV-1 Tat-induced Neuronal Injury by Phytoestrogens." Espensen-Sturges spent her summers participating in the research experiences for undergraduates (REU) program in pharmacology and cognitive science at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of Minnesota, and also received an American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) Fellowship. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in clinical science and psychopathology at the University of Minnesota.

Patrick Hankins, of Columbia, is a 2009 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College with dual degrees in chemistry and German. Holder of the Carolina Scholar Chris Vlahoplus Scholarship, he was also the recipient of both the Hiram and Lawanda Allen Scholarship for excellence in chemistry and the Victor L. Laurie Chemistry Scholarship, which recognizes undergraduate research and participation in the USC American Chemical Society Undergraduate Affiliates and its programs. While at USC, he taught German in a Columbia elementary school and freshman chemistry at USC as a teaching assistant. As a Magellan Scholar he did research with Cathy Murphy in the department of chemistry and biochemistry. He was awarded a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to Germany for the 2009-2010 academic year. Hankins is currently pursuing a doctorate in chemistry at Northwestern University, working on a cancer drug delivery project.

Lesley Joseph, of Rock Hill, S.C., is a 2011 graduate of the College of Engineering and Computing, with a major in civil/environmental engineering. He was the recipient of the Environmental Stewardship Award, the Bruce C. Coull Outstanding Student in Environmental Studies, the James Boyce Malone Sr. and Jr. Academic Engineering Scholarship, and the South Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation (SCAMP) Research and Academic Scholarship. In addition, Joseph was named a Udall Scholar in 2011, and received a GEM Fellowship in 2012. He is completing his master’s degree at USC, and plans to begin his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University in the department of geography and environmental engineering in the fall of 2012.

Robin Neumayer, of Golden, Colo., is a 2012 South Carolina Honors College graduate with a degree in mathematics. She is a McNair finalist, and a recipient of both the Lieber Scholarship and a National Merit Scholarship. She has held officer positions in both Chi Omega sorority and Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity. Neumayer has served as a mathematics tutor on campus, and studied abroad in Hungary on the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program. She has participated in two NSF-funded summer research experiences for undergraduates (REUs): the Groups, Graphs and Geometry REU in 2010 at UNC Asheville, and the Combinatorics of Triangulations REU in 2011 at Cornell. Neumayer plans to pursue a doctorate in mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin.

Stephen Timko, of Vicksburg, Mich., is a 2012 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College, with degrees in both marine science and chemistry. A McNair Scholar, he is also the recipient of the Hollings Scholarship and a Goldwater Scholarship honorable mention. He has been awarded the Phi Beta Kappa George A. Wauchope Award and a USC Outstanding Senior award, as well as being honored as the 2012 Outstanding Marine Science Major. Timko is involved with education outreach through Students Engaged in Aquatic Sciences (SEAS) and plays on the men’s club volleyball team. He plans to pursue a research career in environmental chemistry after earning his doctorate from the University of California, Irvine.

2012 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mentions

Jacqueline Cantwell, of Alpharetta, Ga., is a 2012 South Carolina Honors College graduate majoring in chemistry, with a minor in French. A McNair Scholar, she is also the recipient of the Leiber Scholarship, a National Merit Scholarship, the Derial Jackson Scholarship for Study in Tours, and the Allen Scholarship for Excellence in Chemistry. Named a Goldwater Honorable Mention in 2011, she will be in France next year on a Fulbright to do research in inorganic chemistry. Cantwell plans to earn a doctorate in inorganic chemistry at Northwestern University to conduct research in inorganic materials synthesis and teach at the university level.

Chase W. Nelson, of Holland, Mich., is a 2010 graduate of Oberlin College and currently a presidential fellow in biology at USC. A recipient of an NSF-STEM Fellowship in Computation and Modeling at Oberlin College, he currently researches the evolution of cancer and the detection of natural selection at the DNA level. Besides teaching a Biology 101 lab, he is an actor and singer with Trustus Theater and Workshop Theater, volunteers with S.C. Pride, and is part of the Palmetto Swing Dance Association. He plans to earn a doctorate in molecular evolution and build a side career in musical theater.

Huong Giang Thai Nguyen, of Greenville, is a 2010 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College, where she was a double major in chemistry and biology. She was the recipient of the USC Valedictorian Scholarship, Palmetto Fellows scholarship and the Victor Laurie junior and senior year scholarships. A Magellan scholar, she participated in the Howard Hughes Undergraduate Summer Research Program and received the ACS’s Analytical Chemistry award. Nguyen worked on research with Qian Wang of the chemistry and biochemistry department for three years while at USC and was an active member of the Vietnamese Student Association. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in chemistry at Northwestern University.

Ronald James “Jim” Talbert, of Pawleys Island, S.C., is a 2012 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College, where he is a Baccalaureus Artium et Scientiae major, focusing on physics, philosophy of science and science in society. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Talbert holds the Carolina Scholar Pepsi Scholarship and is a Palmetto Fellow. He was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship in 2011. He is active with Carolina Science Outreach, Carolina Judicial Council, Religion and Science Initiative and the Carolina Constitutional Council. Talbert plans to complete a doctorate in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford.

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Posted: 05/02/12 @ 4:30 PM | Updated: 05/08/12 @ 3:43 PM | Permalink