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McNair Scholars Receive Prestigious Graduate Research Awards

Cierra Abellera, Trent Garrett, Joel Johnson, Tanya Lu, Cecelia Staggs
Current and former Boise State McNair Scholars, pictured left to right: Cierra Abellera, Trent Garrett, Joel Johnson, Tanya Lu and Cecelia Staggs.

At the beginning of April, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the 2020 recipients of the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Among the awardees this year, Boise State McNair Scholars Program was well represented – two current scholars and one alumna received the fellowship and two alumni received honorable mentions.

Trent Garrett and Tanya Lu, both recipients of the fellowship, are Boise State seniors who are in their second and final year of the McNair Scholars Program. Garrett will be graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and will be going on to pursue his Ph.D. at the University of Texas Austin, starting in the Fall of 2020. Lu will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. She will be pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Cecelia Staggs, a Boise State and McNair Program alumna who graduated in 2019, also received the fellowship. Staggs is currently finishing her first year of the General Linguistics graduate program at the University of Oregon.

Two other McNair alumni were also recognized by the National Science Foundation. Joel Johnson and Cierra Abellera, both members of the 2019 graduating class, received an honorable mention. Johnson is currently finishing the first year of his Geophysics Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado Boulder, while Abellera is in the Psychology of Peace and Prevention of Violence Ph.D. program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The NSF GRFP is a competitive and prestigious program that recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based masters and doctoral degrees at accredited national institutions. It is the country’s oldest fellowship program that directly supports STEM graduate students. Since 1952 the NSF has funded over 50,000 Graduate Research Fellowships.

Fellows in the program benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, 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.

Fellowship recipients have a history of becoming leaders in their fields and of contributing significant advances in both scientific innovation and teaching. Notable former fellows includes U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu; Google founder, Sergey Brin; Freakonomics co-author, Steven Levitt and numerous Nobel Prize winners.

-By Hillary O’Brien