Three From Rhodes Selected for National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program

college of three college students who  graduated from Rhodes
(l-r) Scotty Wicker ’22, Eraine Leland ’21, Kelsey Rena Glasper ’21

Rhodes College alums Kelsey Rena Glasper ’21, Eraine Leland ’21, and Scotty Wicker ’22 have been selected for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP), following a national competition.

The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. Fellowships provide the recipient with a three-year annual stipend of $37,000, as well as access to opportunities for professional development.

Glasper, who received a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Rhodes, is now pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She was a member of the STEM Cohort Mentoring Program at Rhodes, founded by Dr. Shana Stoddard. Glasper also completed research in Stoddard’s biochemistry course and worked in her lab as an undergraduate and a post-baccalaureate student.

“The invaluable support I received from Dr. Shana Stoddard and the STEM Cohort Mentoring Program undoubtedly helped me achieve this goal,” said Glasper about being selected for the NSF GRFP. “The environment at Rhodes College not only nurtured my academic growth but also fostered my development as a well-rounded individual. It was there that I learned to integrate my passion for neuroscience with the many other things that I love. I am now able to use my involvement and experiences at Rhodes as a template to advocate for broadening diversity and equity in the STEM community and providing representation for other emerging scientists of color. It’s this unique blend of scholarly excellence and a holistic lifestyle that played a pivotal role in securing the fellowship.”

Leland is pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Miami. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish from Rhodes. She was a member of Dr. Kiren Khan’s Language and Literacy Lab and conducted research related to the Summer Success kindergarten readiness program co-developed by Khan. Leland continues to conduct research focusing on bilingual children's language and social emotional development, as well as the impact of peers and teachers on early development.

“My experiences in the Language and Literacy lab at Rhodes really jump-started my passion for applied, classroom-based research,” said Leland. I am especially grateful to Dr. Khan for supporting me in designing my own study focusing on bilingual narrative structures. Although COVID-19 disrupted the study, it launched my research on dual language learners and code switching, which has continued to be the focus of my research and is the topic of my NSF GRFP proposal.”

Wicker, who received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, also completed research with Stoddard and was a member of the STEM Cohort Mentoring Program. Wicker was a member of  Dr. William Eckenhoff’s lab from his first year at Rhodes and emerged as a leader, conducting research on hydrogen production using a nickel catalyst and publishing a paper on the project in Inorganic Chemistry. Wicker currently is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin.

“Rhodes College offered a diverse range of research opportunities and courses which proved to be invaluable while preparing for this award,” said Wicker. ”I first applied to the NSF GRFP my senior year at Rhodes, but the feedback provided by Dr. Stoddard’s STEM Cohort Mentoring program, and previous research experience gained from over three years in Dr. Eckenhoff’s research lab, proved to be crucial points in building the foundation I used to win this year’s fellowship. Dr. Stoddard and Dr. Eckenhoff ensured the development of my scientific communication and laboratory skills, but also encouraged the continuous pursuit of personal growth and development which further inspired me to pursue higher goals in the STEM field.”