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NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program is the country's oldest fellowship program that directly supports graduate students in various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. This year, 2,000 awards were offered from nearly 13,000 applicants. The award includes a three-year, $34,000 annual stipend plus a $12,000 educational allowance that goes toward tuition and fees.





Four UT Dallas Biomedical Engineering Students, Alumni Receive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

Left to Right: Jennifer Boothby, Rafi Ayub, Shelbi Parker and Danyal Siddiqui, BS'15, MS'16 were among 11 students with ties to UT Dallas chosen this year for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The best and brightest students at The University of Texas at Dallas seek out opportunities to use their expertise and passion to work for the betterment of humanity. Jenny Boothby is one such researcher, envisioning advances to point-of-care technology that would allow diagnosis of diseases to occur as quickly as litmus paper changes color.

Boothby, a doctoral student in the Department of Bioengineering, is among 4 biomedical engineering students with ties to UT Dallas chosen this year for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The program provides three years of financial support for graduate studies, each year consisting of a stipend of $34,000 plus a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance.

Boothby arrived from Georgia Tech in the fall of 2015 to work in the lab of Dr. Taylor Ware MS'11, PhD'13, assistant professor of bioengineering, on formulating smart materials for biomedical applications. Her work has focused on liquid crystalline films commonly used for products such as LCD screens, but not yet utilized in a biological setting.

"We think these polymers can be applicable to biomedical engineering because we can control their order, their molecular structure, so well," Boothby said. "My specific research is tuning these polymers to be water-responsive so that they can be used in a device in the body, like a heart valve, but without needing an external power source."

Boothby’s eventual goal involves point-of-care biosensors for developing countries, such as powerless devices capable of replacing expensive, unwieldy electrical equipment for running medical lab tests.

“These small devices would enable you to apply a sample to the device and figure out what disease someone has based on the color change,” Boothby said. “No lab, no reagents — you can fit everything into this piece of plastic. It would open up access to so many more people.”

Boothby’s determination to expand the availability of such technologies crystallized with the help of several experiences beyond our borders, including service trips to Peru and the Dominican Republic.

“Through both of those, I developed this belief that it’s our duty to help others. I feel fortunate to have an opportunity to work on this technology that could bridge that gap, to create something that’s applicable in all environments everywhere, instead of only in resource-rich environments.”

Interim vice president for research Rafael Martín believes the sharp increase in UT Dallas honorees indicates both the University’s growing profile nationwide as well as the strength of UT Dallas’ programs across many disciplines.

“These awards are a tremendous external validation of the quality of both our undergraduate and graduate students,” Martin said. “UT Dallas has been recognized for some time for our academically exemplary undergraduate population. That NSF Graduate Research Fellows are choosing to pursue their graduate education here demonstrates a growing awareness of the quality of our graduate programs and students as well.”

One UT Dallas biomedical engineering alumni who chose to continue their doctoral studies at the University also received a NSF fellowship.

Danyal Siddiqui BS’15, MS’16 is a bioengineering doctoral student working on dental implant applications of the ceramic biomaterial zirconia in Dr. Danieli Rodrigues’ lab.




The NSF also chose two biomedical engineering students who are expected to earn their undergraduate degrees from UT Dallas in May.

Rafi Ayub, who majors in biomedical engineering with a minor in neuroscience, will attend Stanford University for graduate studies. He’s interested in developing novel algorithms for brain-machine interfaces to restore function to stroke patients and paraplegics.


While earning her bachelor’s in bioengineering, Shelbi Parker has been working in the lab of Dr. Walter Voit BS’05, MS’06, fabricating bioelectronics devices that stimulate the nervous system. She will attend MIT in the fall.