Engineering Students Receive 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

LSU had a record high of 10 current students or recent graduates recognized by the National Science Foundation as 2016 Graduate Research Fellows, four of who are enrolled in the College of Engineering. One additional engineering student received honorable mention.

NSF named 2,000 individuals as this year’s recipients of the graduate fellow awards, which provide three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period—a $34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution. The support is for graduate study that leads to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in science or engineering.

“The Graduate Research Fellowship Program is a vital part of our efforts to foster and promote excellence in U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics by recognizing talent broadly from across the Nation,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, NSF assistant director for Education and Human Resources. “These awards are provided to individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements, and they are investments that will help propel this country's future innovations and economic growth.”

Awardees—chosen from close to 17,000 applicants—represent a diverse group of scientific disciplines and from all states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. commonwealths and territories. The group is diverse, including 1,077 women; 424 individuals from underrepresented minority groups ; 62 persons with disabilities; 35 veterans; and 627 senior undergraduates.

The new fellows come from 488 baccalaureate institutions—104 more institutions than in 2010, when GRFP began awarding 2,000 fellowships each year.

This year’s fellows from LSU’s College of Engineering include:

  • Mollie Smoak, a biological engineering senior and member of the Ogden Honors College from Lafayette, Louisiana. Smoak, a 2015 Goldwater Scholar, is a member of the LA-STEM Research Scholars Program and will graduate as a CxC Distinguished Communicator. She plans to attend graduate school at Rice University in bioengineering.
  • Kurt Ristroph, a senior double majoring in chemical engineering and classical studies and a member of the Ogden Honors College from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Ristroph, an LSU Discover Scholar, will graduate as a CxC Distinguished Communicator. He plans to attend graduate school in bioengineering.
  • Daniel Lepkowski, a senior majoring in electrical engineering in the College of Engineering from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Lepkowski plans to attend graduate school in electrical and electronic engineering.
  • Katie Hogan, an Ogden Honors College senior majoring in biological engineering from Choudrant, Louisiana. Hogan, a 2015 Goldwater Scholar honorable mention, is a member of the LA-STEM Research Scholars Program and will graduate as a CxC Distinguished Communicator. She plans to pursue an MD/Ph.D. at Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University.

In addition, Michelle Laterrade, a senior majoring in biological and agricultural engineering from Pontchatoula, Louisiana, received honorable mention.

“This accomplishment is a true testament to the quality of our LSU Engineers, and we wish these fellows all the best as they continue their studies and their careers,” said Mary Julia “Judy” Wornat, Interim Dean of the College of Engineering. “These students are doing remarkable, innovative work, and I have no doubt they will continue to make us proud.”

NSF has posted a complete list of those offered this fellowship for 2016, and general information on GRFP is available on the program’s website.

The rigorous NSF GRFP application includes submission of a research proposal. Many of the LSU fellows honored this year participated in the annual NSF Graduate Research Fellowship application workshop, hosted by the Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership (CCELL) and Communication across the Curriculum(CxC).

This three-part series workshop – led by Cliff and Nancy Spanier Alumni Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and Director of CCELL Marybeth Lima, Donald & Norma Nash McClure Alumni Professor in English Sarah Liggett, Cajun Constructors Professor in Construction Management Carol Friedland, and CxC Science Coordinator Becky Carmichael – has provided comprehensive training on developing exceptional applications.

“Congratulations to our fellows and honorable mentions – receiving such prestigious, national recognition is testament to the outstanding research accomplishments and outreach activities of our undergraduate and graduate students,” Lima said.

About NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Since 1952, NSF has provided fellowships to individuals selected early in their careers based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. GRFP is critical to NSF's overall strategy of developing the globally engaged workforce necessary to ensure the nation's leadership in advancing science and engineering research and innovation.

A high priority for NSF and GRFP is increasing the diversity of the science and engineering workforce, including geographic distribution, and the participation of women, underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities and veterans. GRFP offers fellowship awards directly to applicants selected through a national competition.

Fellows have opportunities for international research collaborations through the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) initiative, and professional career development with federal internships provided through the Graduate Research Internship Program(GRIP). GRFP also supports NSF's Career-Life Balance Initiative (NSF 13-099).

NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

For more information on the Graduate Research Fellowship, visit


For more information, contact Sydni Dunn, with the LSU College of Engineering, at 225-578-5706 or at, or Ernie Ballard, with LSU Media Relations, at 225-578-5685 or at