November 1, 2014  

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Southern Miss Students Earn NSF Research Fellowship Recognition

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Emily Hoff of Gulfport, Miss., is a doctoral student in the College of Science and Technology’s School of Polymers and High Performance Materials. (University Communications photo by David Tisdale).

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) has honored two University of Southern Mississippi students, providing one with funding for graduate study and another with recognition of her outstanding academic achievements.

Emily Hoff of Gulfport, Miss., a doctoral student in the College of Science and Technology’s School of Polymers and High Performance Materials; and Christina Perazio of Tannersville, Pa., a master’s student in the College of Education and Psychology’s Department of Psychology, were selected as a Fellow and for Honorable Mention recognition, respectively.

“I'm honored and grateful to be among the recipients, and excited about the possibilities the award represents.  I believe it will challenge me to be an even better scientist," said Hoff, who wants to pursue a career in academic research as a university professor after graduate school.

Southern Miss alumnus Bryson Brewer, currently a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University, was also named a Fellow through the program.

The goal of the GRFP is to help ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the U.S. and reinforce its diversity. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. 

Fellows receive three years of support, including a $30,000 annual stipend, $10,500 cost-of-education allowance to the institution, international research and professional development opportunities and TeraGrid Supercomputer access.

Hoff said the award does not limit her to one particular area of research, giving her more options. “Being an NSF Fellow comes with a lot of responsibility, but having multiple research options also inspires creativity,” she said.

Working in the laboratory of polymer science professor Derek Patton, Hoff’s research focuses on designed synthesis of polymer architectures for advanced materials. She’s also active in outreach activities, including science demonstrations at local elementary schools, mentoring and working with freshman athletes at the university to prepare for science curriculum in their academic programs.

Hoff praised the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials for its dynamic and innovative faculty, including Patton, Robert Lochhead, Rob Storey and Sarah Morgan for their mentorship and support. “The program is excellent, so obviously I didn’t want to leave (after receiving an undergraduate degree from the school).”

Patton said Hoff fulfilled what the NSF looks for in candidates for fellowships. “She has a real intellect for science, and is committed to outreach in the community,” he said.

Perazio, who is studying experimental psychology in the Department of Psychology’s Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Laboratory, said she’s proud of the NSF recognition and hope it bodes well for securing a fellowship in the future.

“It (honorable mention) means that with some hard work and improvements, I have a good shot at receiving GRFP funding next year, which would allow me to travel and collect behavioral and acoustic data of whales and dolphins in the field,” she said.

“Christina is doing very well in her program, and she’s deserving of this recognition,” said Dr. Stan Kuczaj, professor of psychology and director of the Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Laboratory. “I believe as she continues with her commitment to her research, she will become an even stronger candidate for NSF funding in the near future.”

For more information about undergraduate and graduate scholarships and research support opportunities, contact Southern Miss Officer of National Scholarships and Fellowships Robyn Curtis at 601.266.4263, or e-mailrobyn.curtis@usm.edu