GRFP logo

One Miami University graduate student, two alumni receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Keaka Farleigh, a PhD student in ecology, evolution, and environmental biology, has been awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program “recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.”

Miami undergraduate alumnus Kevin Summer received a Graduate Research Fellowship in support of his work as a PhD student at the University of Denver. Graduate School alumna Rhiannon Schultz, who will begin PhD studies this fall at the University of Georgia, also received a fellowship.

In addition, several current and former students received GRFP honorable mentions. They are McKenna Freeman, currently a masters student in psychology; Benjamin David Harding, currently a senior majoring in biochemistry; Rosamiel Ries, currently a senior majoring in geology and physics; Isabelle Andersen, an undergraduate alumna now studying at Baylor University; Avnika Bali, an undergraduate alumna now studying at Yale University; and Haley Elizabeth Thoresen, an undergraduate alumna now studying at the University of Idaho.


Updated April 21, 2020 to include Rhiannon Schultz.

Upham Hall with Pulley Tower behind it, on the Oxford, Ohio campus of Miami University

Three Miami University graduate students, two alumni receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Blue, green, and white GRFP logo. The letters "GRFP" are the focus of the logo. Written smaller, underneath "GRFP" are the words "NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program."

Three Miami University graduate students have been awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program “recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.” They are Akanksha Das (clinical psychology), Shelby Ortiz, (physiological psychology), and Jared Tangeman (developmental biology).

Among Miami undergraduate alumni receiving Graduate Research Fellowships are Tangeman, Jayson Boubin, and Hannah Devens. Boubin is currently a graduate student in computer systems and embedded systems at The Ohio State University and Devens is a student in environmental biology at Duke University.


Photos by Miami University.

Upham Hall with Pulley Tower behind it, on the Oxford, Ohio campus of Miami University

Miami University student, three alumni receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Portrait of Feven Ogbaselase
Feven Ogbaselase

Feven Asresehei Ogbaselase, a graduate student in clinical psychology, has been awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program “recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.”

Blake Rasor, Maeva Metz, and Rebecca Jorgensen, all of whom completed their undergraduate work at Miami, also received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. Rasor is currently a graduate student at Northwestern University and Moritz is a student in the Weill Medical College at Cornell University. Jorgensen’s graduate school was not specified.


Photos by Miami University.

Upham Hall with Pulley Tower behind it, on the Oxford, Ohio campus of Miami University

Miami University student, two alumni receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Portrait of Miami University student Lonnie Flett.
Lonnie Flett, a senior majoring in geology, has been named a Graduate Research Fellow by the National Science Foundation.

Lonnie Flett, a Miami University senior majoring in geology, has been awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program “recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.” Flett plans to remain at Miami for her graduate studies.

Abraham “Jon” Moller and Lindsay Moritz, both of whom completed their undergraduate work at Miami, also received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. Moller is currently a graduate student at Emory University and Moritz is a graduate student at the University of Michigan.


Upham Hall photo by Scott Kissell and portrait of Lonnie Flett by Ricardo Trevino, Miami University Photo Services.

Undergraduate research assistants Grace Hawkins and Andrew Higgins practice using some of the physiological assessment equipment they will use during the interoception study.

Graduate student investigates new predictor of suicidal behavior

Lauren Forrest and Andrew Higgins look at a spreadsheet on a laptop computer.
Graduate student Lauren Forrest is conducting a study to see if interoception — the ability to perceive physiological sensation — can predict who is at risk for suicide. Here, she discusses data collection with undergraduate research associate Andrew Higgins.

Veterans Administration (VA) statistics suggest that veterans are disproportionately affected by suicide. While only one out of every ten Americans has served in the military, veterans accounted for nearly one out of every five suicides in 2014. Despite stepped-up efforts by the VA to help prevent such tragic outcomes a major hurdle remains: it can be nearly impossible to predict who is at risk of suicide.

The problem is not a lack of research. “A lot of people have been trying to find out for a long time why these behaviors occur,” says Lauren Forrest, a graduate student in Miami University’s Department of Psychology. Even so, recent analyses of data from 50 years’ worth of studies show that the ability of mental health professionals to predict suicidal behavior is still no better than chance.

“We need to study novel risk factors, to look at new things that might be related to people injuring themselves,” says Forrest.

She suggests interoception as one potential candidate. Interoception is the ability to perceive physiological sensation – including hunger, itch, pain, and emotions – inside the body. Forrest’s hypothesis is that people who have low interoception, who are relatively “tuned out” to pain or to sensations associated with fear, might be at greater risk for harming themselves.

“It’s kind of like when someone’s been to the dentist and had a shot of Novocaine,” says Forrest. “Their tongue goes numb, and it would be really easy for them to bite their tongue and cause significant damage, because they can’t feel it.”

Forrest’s work recently caught the attention of the Military Suicide Research Consortium, which has given her a $2,000 grant to complete an interoception study, under the supervision of assistant professor April Smith.

To establish a baseline of interoception, Forrest will compare subjects’ self-reported responses to physical and emotional stimuli with measurements of their physiological responses to those stimuli. Both people with a history of self-injurious behavior and people without such a history will be included in the study, so that their responses can be compared.

“We want to understand how this misperception is happening” in people with low interoceptive ability, says Forrest. “Is it more of a psychological thing or is it more of a physiological thing? Do their bodies simply not produce these sensations like they should?”

To help answer those questions, Forrest and two undergraduate research assistants will continue to follow participants with a history of self-injury for six months after collection of the baseline data. They will ask the participants to report weekly on the number of times they injured themselves, thought about suicide, and/or attempted suicide. Forrest and her team will then look for correlations between those reports and the self-reporting and physiological data collected during the baseline phase.

Given the incidence of suicide among veterans, it’s easy to see why the Military Suicide Research Consortium is interested this kind of research. But service members and veterans will not be the only ones to benefit.

“Suicide and non-suicidal self-injury are really huge public health problems with very significant consequences,” says Forrest.

If she’s able to find a link between reduced interoception and self-injurious behavior, Forrest’s work may lay the groundwork for further research that eventually leads to clinical interventions. For instance, it may one day be possible for healthcare professionals to administer questionnaires and/or physiological assessments that help predict which patients are at risk of self-injury and refer them for treatment before it’s too late.

That’s an outcome everyone can live with.


Written by Heather Beattey Johnston, Associate Director of Research Communications, Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, Miami University.

Photos courtesy of Lauren Forrest.

Panel gives prospective NSF GRFP applicants advice

Blue, green, and white GRFP logo. The letters "GRFP" are the focus of the logo. Written smaller, underneath "GRFP" are the words "NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program."

Current NSF research fellows, their advisors, former panel members, and prospective applicants gathered September 23 to share and learn about the NSF GRFP (Graduate Research Fellowship Program).

The mission of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is twofold:

  • Support individuals who have demonstrated the potential to be high achieving scientists and engineers early in their careers (college seniors, and first and early second year graduate students)
  • Broaden participation in science and engineering of underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans.

The GRFP is unique in that awards are portable between accredited U.S. institutions and allow for project and advisor flexibility.  Current fellows and advisors concurred that in addition to an applicant’s project, the applicant’s history, background, experience, and demonstrated desire and ability to conduct research are also important.

Awards are made for five years, supplying three years of fellowship support ($32,000 stipend per year + $12,000 educational allowance per year).  With funding rates at 17%, it is important that applicants “stand out” among their peers.  Applicants are encouraged to:

  • Demonstrate a history of research and outreach experience
  • Show how their background and outreach activities will contribute to the broader impacts review criteria
  • Select references who can write strong letters attesting to the applicant’s ability to conduct research and who can address the applicant’s unique background for creating broader impacts and/or broadening participation within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines

Said current psychology Fellow Taylor Tuscherer, “Showing is better than telling.  It’s not enough to say you are enthusiastic about research; you must demonstrate that enthusiasm by talking about your research and outreach experiences.  For example, rather than say that you are ‘passionate about research,’ discuss the number of labs you have worked in, the techniques and machinery you are familiar with, and list the number of projects you have worked on over the years.”

Potential applicants should read and re-read the current program guidelines (NSF 14-590).  The guidelines outline the program,award information, eligibility requirements, submission instructions, and the review criteria.  In addition, FAQs are available on the GRFP homepage.

Panelists encouraged students to:

  • Begin writing early
  • Have someone read a draft of their application prior to submission
  • Contact their references early
  • Write a clear hypothesis and objectives
  • Use headers to outline the two review criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts

Program deadlines for the 2015-16 competition are as follows:

  • Engineering; Computer & Information Science and Engineering; Materials Research: October 29, 3014
  • Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry; Physics and Astronomy: October 30, 2014
  • Social Sciences; Psychology; STEM Education and Learning: November 3, 2014
  • Life Sciences; Geosciences: November 4, 2014
  • All letters of reference: November 6, 2014

Applicants must register with NSF FastLane and apply via the GRFP module.  For assistance with your application, please contact Tricia Callahan (529-1795).

Learn more about graduate-related funding by following @MiamiOH_OARS and @MiamiUGradSch on Twitter.

Written by Tricia Callahan, Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.