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Three U of M Students Receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
For release: July 8, 2009
For more information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901-678-2843

University of Memphis students Ronné Adkins, Ashley Cox and Duong Nguyen have been selected to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) Award. The grant is based on the students’ abilities and accomplishments as well as their potential to contribute to the vitality of science and engineering ventures in the U.S.

Adkins, of Memphis, is a Ph.D. candidate in earth sciences. His dissertation will focus on the potential of growing switchgrass on a large scale as a substantial energy source for cellulosic ethanol, and to lessen major erosion problems in the western grasslands of China. Not only does switchgrass have the ability to produce ethanol, but it can also control soil erosion and rehabilitate soils. Lessons learned in China can be applied worldwide to obtain the biggest returns on investment, including environmental, social and economic benefits.

“The NSF graduate research fellowship is very competitive, and it is considered one of the most prestigious doctoral fellowships in all of the sciences,” says Dr. Gregory Taff, assistant professor of earth sciences. “This fellowship will allow Ronné to focus his full efforts on this very interesting project that could have real impact on Chinese energy policy and help improve the Chinese environment. Furthermore, research being conducted in the state of Tennessee is at the forefront of research on switchgrass for cellulosic ethanol production, and we are collaborating with researchers throughout the state to further this research through the application of geospatial technologies.”

Both Cox and Nguyen will be pursuing the Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. Cox will study with Dr. Warren Haggard, professor and holder of the Herff Chair of Excellence in Biomedical Engineering. She will focus on drug delivery work based on degrading natural and biological materials. Cox, of Ellisville, Miss., is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi.

Nguyen’s research involves using chitosan as a scaffold material to allow better bone growth when there are gaps in a fracture site. She will work with Dr. Joel Bumgardner, associate professor of biomedical engineering. Nguyen, of Memphis, was a member of the first U of M graduating class in biomedical engineering.

“A special, not obvious fact lies in the great teaching and mentoring that our faculty provide,” says Dr. Eugene Eckstein, professor and chair of biomedical engineering. “Coming to the U of M provides the selected environment for learning through regular, caring interaction with faculty on research projects driven by federal and other funding.”

The award is for full tuition plus $30,000 per year for a maximum of three years.

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