Keilah Davis Receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

photo of Keilah Davis
LSU’s second year Ph.D. candidate Keilah Davis
Olivia Crowell, student photographer

LSU’s second year Ph.D. candidate Keilah Davis has been selected for the highly competitive National Science Foundation, or NSF, Graduate Research Fellowship. This prestigious fellowship supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. NSF received more than 13,000 applications for 2,000 fellowships this year.

In her first year of graduate studies, Davis was funded by a fellowship as part of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Bridge to the Doctorate, or LS-AMP BD, program. This program is supported by NSF and designed to attract students from underrepresented groups to pursue Ph.D. degrees in STEM disciplines.

A native of Durham, North Carolina, Davis is pursuing her Ph.D. in astrophysics with advisor Catherine Deibel, associate professor. 

“I chose LSU for the chance to work with Dr. Catherine Deibel, who has been an amazing mentor to me in my first two years here,” said Davis. “I also knew I would benefit from the mentoring and professional development from the Bridge to the Doctorate program. Both Dr. Deibel and BD have been integral to my growth and success at LSU, and I'm grateful for their assistance and support throughout this application process."

Davis conducts research in experimental nuclear astrophysics and the title of her proposed research is “Indirect Reaction Rate Measurements for X-ray Burst Nucleosynthesis.” 

“My research focuses on developing detectors and techniques to investigate nuclear reactions to gain insights about explosive stellar environments,” said Davis. “I’m currently designing a detector that will be used at Florida State University by nuclear physics students, postdocs, and faculty across multiple universities to address a variety of nuclear physics questions. More specifically, for my dissertation research I will use the detector to measure energy levels in two key nuclei most relevant to X-ray bursts.”

NSF’s five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support including an annual stipend of $34,000 and $12,000 to cover tuition and fees. Davis’ selection as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow is a highly significant national accomplishment and places her amongst an elite group of fellows who have gone on to distinguished careers in STEM or STEM education.

“We were so pleased when Keilah chose to join us at LSU and in her first two years she has already become an integral part of our group and the department,” said Associate Professor Catherine Deibel, LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy. “This is a significant accomplishment that Keilah so richly deserves – one of the first of many, in what I’m sure will be a long and successful career in nuclear physics.”

An officer in the LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy Graduate Student Organization and a co-organizer of Astronomy on Tap-Baton Rouge, Davis plans to continue her research career as a professor or national lab scientist. 

Davis earned her Bachelor of Science degree in physics from North Carolina State University of Raleigh, NC in 2019. Davis participated in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates, REU program at Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory, TUNL, with Dr. Richard Longland in 2017. In 2016, Davis was involved in the Yale University Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, SURF, where she conducted research in astronomy under Dr. Meg Urry.


About the Bridge to the Doctorate Program 

The Bridge to the Doctorate, or BD, Program is a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, or LS-AMP, Initiative supported by the National Science Foundation. This endeavor provides holistic support for graduate students from underrepresented groups in pursuit of PhDs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, disciplines. BD participants receive fellowships, individualized mentoring, academic coaching, professional development, research opportunities and professional conference participation.  

Additional Links: 

2021 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows:

Bridge to the Doctorate Program:

LSU Nucelar Physics:





Mimi LaValle 

LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy