Three awarded National Science Foundation fellowships

An Elon senior, an alumnus and a current staff member have each been selected for the NSF's Graduate Research Fellowship program, which will support their work toward graduate degrees in STEM fields. 

An Elon senior, a member of the class of 2016 and a staff member of the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life have been selected by the National Science Foundation to receive a Graduate Research Fellowship. 

The award supports outstanding graduate students as they work in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. The Graduate Research Fellowship helps fund their pursuit of research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at U.S. colleges and universities.

Launched in 1952 shortly after Congress established NSF, GRFP represents the nation’s oldest continuous investment in the U.S. STEM workforce. For 2018, the NSF received more than 12,000 applications and made 2,000 award offers. 

“To support U.S. leadership and innovation in science and engineering, we must recognize and nurture talent from all of our nation’s communities,” said Jim Lewis, NSF acting assistant director for Education and Human Resources. “I am pleased that again this year, the competition has selected talented students from all economic backgrounds and all demographic categories. In addition, NSF worked successfully to accommodate students from U.S. islands devastated by Hurricanes Maria and Irma, so that they could still compete for a fellowship.”

Sarah Holdren ’18

Holdren is majoring in anthropology and public health and is originally from Zanesville, Ohio. At Elon, she has been an Honors Fellow, a Lumen Scholar and a Harvard T.H. Chan Multidisciplinary Research Training Fellow as well as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. 

With the support of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, Holdren plans to pursue a master’s of science in narrative medicine at Columbia University with the goal of attending medical school and then becoming a maternal and child health physician and scientist. At Elon, she has focused her research on the intersection of culture and medicine and has studied the ways that the medicalized culture of the neonatal intensive care unit impacts the infant-feeding experiences of mothers. 

Holdren has also been named a finalist for a Fulbright study/research award that will allow her to spend the year after graduation conducting research in Finland to better understand that culture’s approach to human milk utilization in the neonatal intensive care unit. Following her Fulbright research, she will attend Columbia University.

“Through both the Fulbright and NSF, I know that I will grow in both my research skills as an anthropologist, in addition to my ability to advocate across cultures and better understand the very liminal experiences of illness,” Holdren says.

Christian Seitz ’16

A chemistry major at Elon, Seitz is now a doctoral student at the University of California, San Diego. When at Elon, he was a Lumen Scholar, a nominee for the Goldwater Scholarship, an Amgen Scholar and a member of the Phi Eta Sigma and Pi Delta Phi honor societies. He’s originally from Dundas, Minnesota.

At UCSD, Seitz is focusing his research on using software engineering to study chemical processes in viruses with his work including building models of multi-protein biological systems using experimental and theoretical data. This builds upon his experience at Elon, where he studied the intrinsic characteristics of an organic building block using computer simulations, and his work at Caltech as an undergrad through the Amgen Scholars Program that included creating 3D models of a class of proteins to make it easier to design drugs. 

“This award is a forceful reminder to not restrain my creativity, ambition or dreams. Established scientists and the National Science Foundation, a respected governmental organization, believe in me personally, so I should, too,” Seitz says. “Put in context of how much I worked towards this fellowship during the difficult early stages of my scientific career, it is hard to accurately describe how much this award means to me. Succinctly, it means a whole lot.”

Carrie Seigler

A graduate of Furman University, Seigler is the multifaith coordinator at the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life. At Furman, she received her bachelor’s in sociology and poverty studies and the award will support her pursuit of a doctorate in sociology. 

Her research interests lie in the intersection of religion, stratification and collective action and she says her work at the Truitt Center has allowed her to see the ways that adherence to religious institutions may influence identity formation and meaning-making.

The research I plan to pursue in graduate school will examine the mechanisms by which religious institutions inform collective actions in marginalized and impoverished communities,” Seigler says. “As social researchers continue to analyze the deep national divides that have become forefront issues in the current sociopolitical climate, I am hopeful that my research will add nuance to the sociological community’s understanding of collective behavior, religion, and lines of socioeconomic stratification that remain so particularly pervasive in the United States today.