Students and Alumni Win Prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Awards

Author: Laurie Gregory

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced the winners of the 2017 Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), with 15 current Notre Dame students, affiliates and alumni winning the prestigious award and another 18 earning honorable mention. Among this decorated cohort are two current College of Science students whose research focuses are stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, and neuroregeneration.

The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate and graduating undergraduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and social science disciplines who are pursuing research-based degrees. GRFP provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution), as well as opportunities for international research and professional development.


Bradley Bowles

250x250 Bradley Bowles

Senior Bradley Bowles is a biology major in the College of Science. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Bowles will pursue a graduate degree in clinical and translational science. He hopes to "take basic research in regenerative medicine or stem cell biology and translate this into new therapies."

"Studying biology gives me a chance to do incredibly cool things. For example, most of my undergraduate research has focused on growing blood vessels in tiny, silicone-based 'microfluidic devices' that almost resemble computer chips," Bowles said. "The best part about studying things like this is that I can apply this work to curing diseases and helping other people. In short, biology lets me do the science that I love while having the fulfillment of knowing that my work could benefit those in need."

Bowles will graduate this May with a degree in biological sciences. He plans on continuing his studies at the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

James Henting

250x250 James Hentig

First-year Ph.D. student James Hentig conducts research in David Hyde's lab on neuroregeneration following traumatic brain injuries. Using zebrafish, which have remarkable regenerative capabilities, Hentig hopes to develop a traumatic brain injury model and see how and if the brain of a zebrafish regenerates following blunt force trauma.

"I love neuroscience because the brain is the center of individual existence," Hentig said. "Furthering our knowledge and working towards regenerative therapies for individuals suffering from neurodegenerative diseases provides hope for not only the individual, but also for the families watching their loved ones slip in and out day by day."

Hentig graduated with a biology degree with honors from Western Michigan University in 2016.

The 15 NSF GRF awardees are:

  • Nicholas Ames; anthropology, Ph.D. expected 2020.
  • Bradley Bowles; biology, class of 2017.
  • Julia Butterfield; mechanical engineering, class of 2017.
  • Salvatore Curasi; biology, Ph.D. expected 2020.
  • Paulina Eberts; chemical engineering, class of 2017.
  • James “Jayme” Hentig; biology, Ph.D. expected 2021.
  • Michael Hunckler; biomechanical engineering, B.S./M.S. class of 2016.
  • Sreeraahul Kancherla; mathematics and economics, class of 2017.
  • Jordan Lewis; biology and environmental science, SROP 2016.
  • Brandy Sky Martinez; clinical psychology, Ph.D. expected 2021.
  • William McCormack; physics, class of 2015.
  • Sasha Padilla; biochemistry, Ph.D. expected 2021.
  • Colleen Riordan; biochemistry, class of 2016.
  • Claire Scott-Bacon; psychology, SROP 2016.
  • Zoe Volenec; environmental science and economics, class of 2016.

The 18 Honorable Mentions are:

  • Paige Ambord; sociology, Ph.D. expected 2020.
  • Clayton Becker; biology, class of 2017.
  • Brooke Chambers (Weaver); biology, Ph.D. expected 2020.
  • Joe Chambers; biology, Ph.D. expected 2020.
  • Sophia Chau; environmental sciences, class of 2017.
  • Mauna Dasari; biology, Ph.D. expected 2020.
  • Paul Friesen; political science, Ph.D. expected 2021.
  • Samuel Leung; chemical engineering, class of 2015.
  • Luke Pardue; economics, class of 2014.
  • Samantha Piekos; biology, class of 2015.
  • Andrew Piper; physics, class of 2015.
  • Vincenzo Pizzuti; chemical engineering, class of 2016.
  • Alexa Rakoski; physics, class of 2015.

Bolded names are individuals who previously or currently are pursuing research in the Center for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine laboratories.


Adapted from an original publication by Cliff Djajapranata at on April 21, 2017.