You’re funded! Three graduate students receive prestigious NSF fellowships

Jeannie Hunnicutt, left, and Danielle RobinsonThree OHSU researchers recently received prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Fellowships. Danielle Robinson, a first-year student, and Jeannie Hunnicutt, a second-year student, both in the Neuroscience Graduate Program and both ARCS scholars, became 2012 GRFP fellows. And in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, research assistant Zachary Wilson also become a 2012 GRFP fellow. Jessica Martin, a second-year graduate student in the same department, received an Honorable Mention for her proposal.

Last year, Christopher Vaaga, first-year student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program and ARCS scholar, also received a GRFP. 


The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in fields within NSF’s mission. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in science and engineering research.

“These individual grants are very hard to get,” said Allison Fryer, PhD, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. “That we’ve had five awarded is a great testament to the outstanding quality of our graduate students and also to OHSU’s outstanding mentorship on grant writing.”

“This many NSF fellowships in a 12-month period in our program is unprecedented,” said Gary Westbrook, MD, Neuroscience Graduate Program Director, Co-Director of the Vollum Institute and the Rocky and Julie Dixon Professor of Neurology. “Any fellowship is an honor to be celebrated, but the NSF ones are special because they focus so much on the individual.” 

While on spring break in New York City, Robinson received the news via e-mail. “I was thrilled,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep on the flight home to Portland. When I landed, I got a message from Jeannie saying that she’d gotten the award, too. It was so exciting. We both worked so hard on our proposals back in the fall.” 

Robinson’s study, titled “Determining protein organization and heterogeneity at the postsynaptic density” proposes work to be done in the lab of Haining  Zhong, PhD. The study will “use the super-resolution technique PhotoActivated LIght Microscopy (PALM) and electron microscopy to obtain a uniquely detailed view of protein architecture at the postsynaptic density and provide functionally significant information about the synapse.”

The students prepared their grant proposals with the help of many people, including the Office of Research Funding & Development Services. The office is a central resource that helps OHSU investigators find funding, assess funding strategy and write better grants.

“They were instrumental in helping me structure my essays and with nitty-gritty editing,” said Robinson.


Pictured above: Jeannie Hunnicutt, left, and Danielle Robinson