Three current students in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and several admitted, prospective graduate students received 2024 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) awards that will allow them to pursue graduate studies in the field of biomedical engineering.

Samuel Freer is a second-year graduate student working with Sapun Parekh. Freer said that he is confident that the fellowship will contribute to his journey toward becoming a leading research scientist, particularly in the fields of imaging and spectroscopy, both during and after his graduate studies.

Cole Barnett is a second-year graduate student working with Samantha Santacruz. Following graduation, Barnett plans on working in the neurotechnology industry to work improving ways to diagnose and treat the brain.

Anakaren Romero-Lozano is a second-year graduate student co-advised by Huiliang “Evan” Wang and Linda Noble-Haeusslein working on applying optogenetic and sono-optogenetic stimulation to the peripheral nervous system. She hopes to join the neurotechnology field after graduation to help develop neurotechnology for treating neurotrauma. 

Grace Bechtel, a second-year student working with Manuel Rausch, received an honorable mention. She plans to expand upon their foundational work in blood clot mechanics to enhance the diagnosis and treatment of thrombotic disorders.

Additionally, several prospective UT Austin biomedical engineering graduate students are among the lists of awardees. One UT Department of Biomedical Engineering alumnus also received the award. Abhijeet Vankataraman received their Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering from UT Austin in 2022.

About the NSF GRFP

The purpose of the GRFP is to ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The GRFP seeks to broaden participation in science and engineering of underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans. The five-year fellowship provides three years of financial support inclusive of an annual stipend of $37,000, along with a $16,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), as well as access to opportunities for professional development available to NSF-supported graduate students.

The program dates back more than 70 years, making it the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, and it has historically funded a little more than 10% of applicants. Past fellows include former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.

Since 1952, NSF has funded more than 60,000 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. In addition, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program has a high rate of doctorate degree completion, with more than 70 percent of students completing their doctorates within 11 years.