LSU Biology Graduate Student A 2023 NSF GRADUATE RESEARCH FELLOW

May 3, 2023

Samantha RutledgeSamantha Rutledge, 2023 NSF GRFP fellow.Photo Courtesy Samantha Rutledge

BATON ROUGE – Samantha Rutledge, a second-year PhD student in Biological Sciences, was recently awarded the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF – GRFP).

The five-year fellowship provides three years of financial support for recipients and their research. The NSF GRFP is awarded to outstanding students performing research in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field and is the oldest award of its kind.

Samantha’s research focuses on understanding the structures involved in iridescence in bird feathers by integrating a variety of techniques, such as spectroscopy, microscopy, and photography. Because her work looks at how color is formed in nature by micro and nanostructures in feathers, it could lead to the development of better materials and technologies for optics and stealth. Her lifelong love of bird watching and undergraduate research experiences during her time at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania led her to pursue graduate school. On her choice of LSU, Samantha said, “LSU's museum ornithology program is one of the top in the world, making it an easy decision to come here for my graduate degree.” She’s completing her research in Dr. Nicholas Mason’s ornithology lab.

Samantha emphasizes that the GRFP gives her more than funding: time. Time, not just for her research, but also for outreach where she can “introduce children of all ages to the field of biology.” She looks forward to sharing workshops and exhibits about her work with the public.

Although Samantha is still exploring career options, she sees herself doing research. A couple of fields she is interested in after her graduate career include working to develop new materials based on her coloration research for an organization like the Department of Defense or wildlife forensics, where she would use science to help investigate crimes involving wildlife.

To learn more about the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, visit their program site.