Two students earn graduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation

Tyler Starr ’12 and Kaeli Swift ’09 have been awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship to support their research in biology and chemistry. The fellowship provides an annual $30,000 stipend and $10,500 towards tuition for three years at any accredited U.S. graduate institution.

Next fall, Starr —a biology and chemistry double major— plans to attend the University of Chicago, where the fellowship will allow him to perform research at the intersection of evolutionary biology and biochemistry.

“Besides the honor of being named a fellow, it gives me more freedom during my graduate school career to join the lab that I want and pursue the questions that interest me,” he says.

Starr received the national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2011. He has performed research with professor Chris Smith through the Science Collaborative Research Program, participated in the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the University of Oregon and worked as a lab assistant and tutor for the biology department. Starr has also volunteered for the Chemawa Indian School, Willamette Academy, Rainbow Youth and Take a Break.

Starr feels honored to be recognized for his hard work throughout college, and he is thankful for the support and mentorship of his professors.

“It really speaks to the strength of the experiences that have been available to me at Willamette, that I can compete with other senior undergraduates and grad students on a national level,” he says.

Swift is also being recognized for her research accomplishments as a Willamette student. As an undergraduate, she worked closely with biology professor David Craig to cultivate a love of bird biology and behavior. She also participated in science education programs throughout college, such as serving as a science teacher and mentor for the Saturday Explorations program, the summer Awesome Academic Adventures program and Willamette Academy.

Since graduating, Swift has worked on a variety of projects, including Satin Bowerbird mate selection in New South Wales, bat fatalities as they relate to wind energy and cataloging the Willamette biology department’s natural history collection.

The fellowship will enable Swift to continue working with crows as a graduate student at the University of Washington or the University of California, Davis.

“Having my own money means I am free to pursue my career interest…and bring those findings to the public (especially kids) in ways that make them love science,” she says.

Swift will discuss her undergraduate research on crows at an Audubon Society Birder’s Night on April 10. Her presentation will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Hatfield Room at the Willamette University Library.

Two chemistry alumni, Charlotte Osborne ’11 and Michael Harris ’10, received honorable mentions for the fellowship this year.

Osborne was awarded the Datatel Scholars Foundation scholarship in 2009 and the Goldwater scholarship in 2010. As an undergraduate, she held internships at Oregon Health & Science University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. Osborne also taught chemistry to local elementary students as a Webber Scholar and as the outreach coordinator for the Chemistry Club.

Harris graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

For more information on the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship and similar opportunities, see the Office of Student Academic Grants and Awards.