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UNCW Students Receive Prestigious NSF and Hollings Awards

Five UNCW Seahawks are recipients of prestigious fellowships and scholarships that will allow them to delve deeper into their research and potential careers.  
Graduate student Grace Kennedy is the recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. The five-year fellowship provides three years of financial support, including an annual stipend of $37,000. The fellowship is awarded to graduate students who demonstrate the potential to be high-achieving scientists and engineers.  
The fellowship allows Kennedy to focus on her doctoral research, gain more microscopy training, particularly with correlative light electron microscopy (CLEM) techniques, and travel to new field sites, including international sites and academic conferences. Her research, “Host-associated Ammonia-oxidizing Archaea within Ascidian Tunic Tissue,” will address a significant knowledge gap about marine invertebrate-associated ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA), focusing on their interactions with ascidians (sea squirts), said Kennedy, who is conducting the research in Biology and Marine Biology Assistant Professor Bradley Tolar’s lab.  
Kennedy added that ammonia-oxidizing archaea are significant contributors to marine nutrient cycling, as they help manage ocean ammonia levels.    
“Including marine invertebrate-associated AOA in nitrification rate estimates is crucial for our coastal oceans because it enhances our understanding of nitrogen cycling, vital for maintaining water quality and ecosystem health,” said Kennedy. “Accurate estimates help manage nutrient levels, which is important for protecting marine life sensitive to high ammonia concentrations. Improved nitrification data also informs ecosystem models and nutrient budgets, aiding in the development of effective conservation and pollution mitigation strategies. This is especially important in coastal areas that can be heavily impacted by human activities and climate change.”   
Doctoral students Alyssa Scott (Assistant Professor Michael Tift’s lab) and Auden Block (Associate Professor Joseph A. Covi’s lab) were awarded an honorable mention. 
Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship   
Four UNCW Seahawks are among the 130 students selected to be 2024 Ernest F. Hollings undergraduate scholars. Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), each scholar receives a two-year scholarship—$9,500 annually—for their junior and senior years, a 10-week paid summer internship opportunity and funding to participate in two national scientific conferences.    
Honors students Nicholas Angeli, pre-marine biology; Rochelle David, marine biology; Siobhan Duffy, biology; and Nicolea Dwight, pre-marine biology were selected as Hollings Scholars. They attended an orientation in May 2024, where they learned about NOAA’s work and research topics that could be available for their internships slated for the summer of 2025.   
The Hollings Scholarship Program aims to increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology and education. It provides multidisciplinary training opportunities, preparing students for public service careers with NOAA and other natural resource and science agencies at the federal, state and local levels of government. Additionally, the program cultivates future oceanic and atmospheric science educators, contributing to advancing scientific and environmental education in the U.S.