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Released April 23, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- A senior in polymer science at The University of Southern Mississippi has been awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Kalena Stovall of Hattiesburg was selected from among more than 8,000 applicants. The fellowship pays $10,500 for tuition and expenses and carries a stipend of $30,000 for three years, including a one-time $1,000 international travel award.

Stovall plans to attend either the University of Pittsburgh or the University of Iowa to earn a Ph.D. in bioengineering.

"I'm undecided right now. I've visited both schools, and they both have very strong programs," Stovall said.

Stovall said she has had a long-term love affair with polymer science. A presentation given by Southern Miss polymer science professor Dr. Robert Lochhead at the Mayor's Youth Conference when Stovall was in seventh grade turned her on to the possibilities of polymers.

"There is so much room for creativity and innovation in polymer science, especially in the area of creating artificial organs and creating synthetic tissues," Stovall said.

The NSF awarded 900 three-year graduate research fellowships to outstanding college and university students this spring as part of its effort to help ensure the vitality and excellence of the U.S. human resources base in science, mathematics and engineering.

"The NSF graduate fellowship is one of the most competitive awards available for aspiring scientists," said Dr. Rex Gandy, dean of the College of Science and Technology. "By winning this award, Ms. Stovall has brought great honor to herself and The University of Southern Mississippi."

Stovall also won a Ronald E. McNair scholarship in 2002 and was a finalist in the 2003 undergraduate research competition for the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChe).

The daughter of Dinah Stovall, who is also a McNair Scholar at Southern Miss majoring in community health, Kalena wants to pursue postdoctoral studies at The Johns Hopkins University and work at the Mayo Clinic before "returning home to the South."

"I'd like to go into academics and open a nonprofit research facility that would provide internship opportunities for other students," Stovall said.

Polymer science professor Dr. Charles Hoyle said Stovall is both a "great student and an exceptional person."

"The competitive NSF fellowship . . . is an accomplishment that few attain. We wish her the best for what will no doubt be a very bright future," Hoyle said.


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April 27, 2004 9:25 AM