Seven Students from Texas ChE Accept NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Three students on the lawn of the university

Maya, Diana, and Nick

Seven students from the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering – four undergraduates and three grad students — have accepted the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.

This fellowship is the oldest and one of the most prestigious and competitive programs of its kind. NSF recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose. This year, out of thousands of applicants nationwide, 11 students from the Cockrell School of Engineering were recognized and seven are chemical engineers.

  • Students on the university campus

    Drew, Heidi, and Mariah

    Mariah Austin is a second-year graduate student working in Dr. Adrianne Rosales’ group. Her work aims to characterize the biodegradative properties of sequence-controlled peptidomimetics for application in tunable biomaterials.

  • Nicholas Curtis graduates in the spring of 2019 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a B.A. in Economics. He currently works in Dr. Lydia Contreras’ lab working on RNA-protein interactions for fundamental understanding of sRNA function in prokaryotes. He will join Dr. Jiwon Lee at Dartmouth this fall.
  • Holly Ekas graduates in the spring of 2019 with a B.S. in chemical engineering. She works in Dr. Hal Alper’s group where she is developing synthetic biology tools for optimizing the metabolic production of specialty chemicals in yeast.
  • Andrew Murphy is a second year Ph.D. student in Dr. Nicholas Peppas’ group, where he studies polymer-based systems for molecular recognition and biosensing applications.”
  • Heidi Oldenkamp is a second-year Ph.D. student in chemical engineering. She is a member of Dr. Nicolas Peppas’ lab and her research focuses on the development of a pH-responsive nanoscale hydrogel system for the oral delivery of high isoelectric point therapeutic proteins, which are currently only available via injection.
  • Chemical engineering student in a lab


    Maya Venkatarama will graduate in 2019 with a B.S. in chemical engineering. She works in Dr. Hal Alper’s laboratory where she is developing tools for controlled gene expression and high-level product formation in prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems.

  • Diana Zhang graduates in the spring of 2019 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. At UT, she spent her sophomore year in Dr. Sean Roberts’ lab studying the properties of nanocrystal thin films. For her final two years, she worked in Dr. Nathaniel Lynd’s lab, where she synthesized new polymeric cryoprotectants for the frozen storage of cells. Diana will begin her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in Fall 2019.

In addition to these current students, four fellowship awardees from institutions across the country will be attending UT in the fall. NSF Fellows are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering. Since 1952, NSF has funded over 50,000 Graduate Research Fellowships out of more than 500,000 applicants. Currently, 42 Fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates, and more than 450 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences.

For more information on the program and a complete list of fellowship awardees for 2019, go to

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