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Seaver College Alumni Awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships

May 10, 2022  | 2 min read

Morgan ClarkIn spring 2022, four Seaver College alumni––Lauren Chu (’19), Morgan Clark-Ota (’17), Karagan Smith (’20), and Maggie Wood (’20)––were awarded fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The NSF GRFP is a five-year fellowship that recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions.

With the support of the fellowship, each recipient will continue their studies in their respective fields––Chu in physiological psychology, Clark-Ota and Smith in ecology, and Wood in sociology. Each of the recipients considers her time at Pepperdine formative in her identity as a researcher and scientist.

Lauren ChuChu, who through the fellowship will continue her research into mitochondrial functioning as it relates to psychological well-being and cognitive function, shares, “My PhD program is highly interdisciplinary, and the liberal arts education I received at Pepperdine constantly challenged me to think about concepts across contexts. I could thank the entire psychology department for fostering my intellectual curiosity throughout my time at Pepperdine.”

Smith, who is a first-year PhD student at University of California San Diego, studies how global change events, especially wildfire and drought, are changing our native plant populations throughout California, a topic she first encountered in Stephen Davis’s lab during her time at Pepperdine.

Karagan Smith“Under [Davis’s] mentorship, along with so many other professors and peer mentors, I was able to really visualize my future as a scientist and it gave me the confidence to apply for these fellowships as well as graduate school,” Smith shares. “Pepperdine offers such a unique experience to those wanting to pursue research. The independence I was given made me feel very well prepared for my Fulbright, graduate school, and now the NSF graduate research fellowship.”

The NSF GRFP is one of the oldest fellowships of its kind and has funded over 60,000 fellows, including 42 who have gone on to become Nobel laureates, since its inception in 1952. The prestigious program opens research opportunities and connections for fellows who often significantly contribute to scientific innovation throughout their research careers.

To learn more about the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and other opportunities, visit Pepperdine's Graduate Fellowships website.