WKU student, alumnus awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
- Tuesday, April 13th, 2021
WKU student Allyson Copeland and alumnus Shashaank Narayanan have been awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
With an annual $34,000 stipend and a $12,000 cost of education allowance per year for three years, Copeland will continue her work investigating the intersection of aging and reading comprehension as a Ph.D. candidate in the Cognition and Neural Science Program at the University of Utah.
“This award will likely completely alter the trajectory of my career as a scientist,” said Copeland, “as it provides both early-career prestige and freedom to pursue my own research questions.”
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is the oldest graduate fellowship program in the country that supports graduate students in the sciences, social sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics. Its scholars have become Nobel laureates and members of the National Academy of Sciences. More than 13,000 applicants pursued the award this year.
Copeland, the daughter of Amberly Jones, is a psychological science and philosophy major and Mahurin Honors College scholar. The Elizabethtown senior expressed gratitude to her academic advisor and research mentor, Dr. Matthew Shake of the Department of Psychological Sciences.
“He has encouraged me to apply for multiple competitive programs, has provided me with the opportunities to get involved in research projects, provided the tools and support to conduct my own research, and helped me with the application itself through reviewing drafts and writing a letter of recommendation,” she said.
Dr. Shake applauded Copeland’s scholarly qualities. “In addition to a strong work ethic, a growth mindset, and impressive self-initiative, Allyson has something else that the best scientists have, which is being unafraid to fail. She demonstrates highly unusual willingness to try really hard things,” he said.
He also commented on her multidimensional, interdisciplinary agility: “Allyson epitomizes the kind of student the Psychological Sciences Department strives to produce. She has an unusual gift of being able to appreciate and engage in both basic and applied science. The knowledge she gained from her humanities studies (e.g., in Philosophy) also strengthened her reasoning and creativity abilities.”
These qualities are evident in Copeland’s future plans. “My ultimate dream is to conduct work both on questions of basic science, and work to make this research accessible through community outreach and education,” she said. “I hope to publish several novels throughout my life as a way to actualize this dream.” Additionally, Copeland is looking forward to studying in the University of Utah’s Language and Memory Aging Lab where she hopes to be involved in other students’ pursuits as a mentor.
Copeland sought guidance from Dr. Audra Jennings, director of the Office of Scholar Development, in preparing her application for the competitive award. “Through the application process, I learned how to contextualize my accomplishments and frame each of my experiences within the broader narrative of my academic goals,” she said.
Narayanan, of Princeton, New Jersey, is a 2019 graduate in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in technology. Narayanan, currently at Columbia University, studies computational neuroscience.
About the Office of Scholar Development: The Office of Scholar Development is committed to helping WKU students in all majors and degree programs develop the vision, experience and skills to be independent, engaged scholars. OSD welcomes the opportunity to work with students interested in nationally competitive scholarships.
Contact: Audra Jennings, firstname.lastname@example.org.