Six OHSU graduate students recognized in the 2020 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship competition

Kim Engeln

Three OHSU graduate students have received 2020 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships and three received honorable mentions.

Kimberley Engeln of the Vollum Neuroscience Graduate Program (pictured above) and Michelle Ozaki and Janelle Tobias, in the School of Medicine Program in Molecular and Cellular Bioscience, are among 2,076 awardees selected from more than 10,000 applicants.

Hannah Collins and Jennifer Jahncke of the Vollum Neuroscience Graduate Program and Sylvie Bindas of the School of Medicine Behavioral Neuroscience Graduate Program received honorable mentions.

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing full-time research-based masters and doctoral degrees in science, technology, education or mathematics and are early in their studies. The purpose of the Graduate Research Fellowship Program is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States.

The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM or STEM education. NSF especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, persons with disabilities, veterans, and undergraduate seniors to apply.

Each fellowship consists of three years of support during a five-year fellowship period. NSF provides a stipend of $34,000 to the fellow and a cost-of-education allowance of $12,000 to the graduate degree-granting institution.

Kimberley Engeln
Neuroscience Graduate Program
Vollum Institute

Engeln’s research focuses on the neuroplasticity caused by drugs of abuse that leads to compulsive drug seeking and relapse.

“Winning an NSF GRFP award is an incredibly validating experience that allows me to confidently envision my career as a scientist without accompanying feelings of self-doubt,” she said. “The award has granted me freedom and independence to research the questions that are most important to me and has validated my mission to apply my scientific training to guide evidence-based policy and education reform.”

Michelle Ozaki
Michelle OzakiSchool of Medicine, Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology
Knight Cancer Institute

“I have always been fascinated by the intricacies of molecular and cellular biology and recently found a love for applying this knowledge to cancer biology while working in a cancer lab at the NIH. I hope to keep a focus on studying biology at a cellular level, but do work that has translational applications and can help patients in the future,” said Ozaki, who is joining Dr. Pepper Schedin’s lab at the Knight Cancer Institute and eventually plans to join the Cancer Biology Program. She is also interested in mentoring and teaching.

“Receiving this award has already been so incredible. I’ve received overwhelming amounts of praise and support from my current and previous mentors, friends, and my fellow cohort mates,” Ozaki said. “When I first got here, I experienced a lot of impostor syndrome, and getting this award has really helped me believe in myself and my scientific pursuits. I could not have gotten this grant without the help of all my amazing mentors, so I hope to pay that forward to future students.”

Janelle Tobias
Janelle TobiasSchool of Medicine, Program in Molecular and Cellular Bioscience (PMCB)
Department of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry and Vollum Institute

Tobias’ research involves developing chemical tools to understand the signaling consequences of cannabinoid receptor activation.

“As a first-generation Latina and the first graduate student of Dr. James Frank’s lab (Vollum Institute), I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity offered by this award. Not only can I serve as a visible example of diversity within academia, I can now focus on my research in a training environment that is more financially stable,” Tobias said.

“Like many others, my research is currently at a standstill due to COVID-19. While it can be tempting to be negative about the situation, I have chosen, and invite others as well, to be the positive voice that cheers on those around me. Like research, I believe that the best way to progress and get through this troubling time is together, as a community.”