11 chemistry students have won National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research fellowships


Thirty-two University of Illinois students have won National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships including 11 students from the Department of Chemistry. Four of the additional 21 accorded honorable mention are Chemistry students.

According to Ken Vickery, director of fellowships in the Graduate College, “This is an outstanding year for Illinois students. Thirty-two awardees places us second among Big Ten schools, and it represents an increase of ten over last year. Our success with the GRF certainly speaks to the caliber of our students, but it also speaks to the training and mentoring our students are receiving. Faculty members are usually heavily involved in a student’s winning such an award, so along with hearty congratulations to the awardees I’d also like to applaud all the professors who helped guide their students to this honor.”    

“Last fall the course was offered as a workshop with no credit and 11 students participated,” said So Hirata, Professor of Chemistry. “The workshop serves as a mechanism to compel the students to prepare applications on time, heed advice from the Graduate College and past winners, ask letter writers for support, and critically review one another’s applications. The materials they prepared were entirely their work, most of which I found inspiring and humbling, said Hirata.”

Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, dean of the Graduate College, says “The NSF-GRF honors students whose accomplishments both inside and outside the classroom indicate great promise as future science leaders. We congratulate all those students whose efforts have culminated in this prestigious award.” 

Chemistry Recipients


  • Sarah Bonson  (Prof. Zimmerman)  
  • Martin Garcia Chavez  (Prof. Hergenrother)
  • Christopher Huck (Prof. Sarlah)
  • Aaron Mena (Prof. Nuzzo)
  • Brennan Rose (Prof. Denmark)
  • William Wertjes  (Prof. Sarlah)

Graduate Honorable Mention

  • Tanner William Bingham (Prof. Sarlah)
  • Matthew Wesley Boudreau (Prof. Hergenrother)
  • Morgan Cencer (Prof. Moore)


  • Amanda Cowfer (Prof. Hergenrother)
  • Luis Daniel Curet (Prof. Zimmerman)
  • Alexandra Lamtyugina (Prof. van der Veen)
  • Ashley Erin Lenhart (Prof. Sweedler)
  • Patrick Schneider (Prof. Hammes-Schiffer)

Undergraduate Honorable Mention

  • Jennifer Marie Zupancic (Prof. Murphy)


Launched in 1952, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) program is the nation’s oldest and largest fellowship program for graduate students. It is also one of the most prestigious. Previous recipients include Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google), Steven Chu (former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy), Ben Bernanke (former Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve), and 42 Nobel Laureates.

The NSF-GRF supports students pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and social science fields. Applications are evaluated according to NSF’s two review criteria: intellectual merit and broader impacts. Awardees generally are those who demonstrate exemplary promise as researchers as well as show a record of using their research and related skills to benefit society. Approximately 12,000 students applied this year, and 2,000 were offered awards.

Partially excerpted from the Graduate College article