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Three UK Students Awarded NSF Graduate Fellowships

May 13, 2020

James Tyler Nichols, Stephen Parsons and Eura Shin are the newest NSF fellows from the UK College of Engineering. Annually, the NSF awards approximately 1,500 fellowships from an applicant pool of over 12,000.

By Whitney Hale


The University of Kentucky Office of Nationally Competitive Awards has announced that three students in the UK College of Engineering have been selected to receive government-funded National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships. Another student received honorable mention recognition from the NSF. 

The three NSF fellows are:

  • James Tyler Nichols, a mechanical engineering graduate student from Taylorsville, Kentucky, who will pursue research in aerospace engineering at University of Colorado at Boulder;
  • Stephen Parsons, a former Chellgren Fellow and current computer science doctoral student from Lexington, who will pursue research in robotics and computer vision at UK;
  • UK Goldwater Scholar Eura Shin, a 2019 computer science graduate and Lewis Honors College member from Morehead, Kentucky, who will pursue research in robotics and computer vision at Harvard University.

NSF Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees for a research-based master's or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) field. Annually, the NSF awards approximately 1,500 fellowships from an applicant pool of over 12,000.

“I am sure I am only starting to imagine the opportunities in front of me thanks to this fellowship,” said Parsons. “The stability provided by the fellowship will allow me to commit to long term, difficult problems in my existing research that have the highest impact. I am already looking forward to the partnerships I will be able to build, both inside UK and with other institutions. Since our research work is multidisciplinary, these relationships are critical to our success.”

Parsons has been working with Brent Seales’ team on the digital restoration of ancient artifacts, particularly focusing on the Herculaneum scrolls. As part of this research, he helps scan the scrolls using X-ray microtomography and then develops algorithms to analyze the resulting data in hopes of revealing hidden text. This will be one of the primary targets of Parson’s research under this fellowship.

James Tyler Nichols, currently the project lead on Kentucky Re-entry Universal Payload System (KRUPS) project, is excited about the autonomy the fellowship will afford him in the future.

“This award is allowing me the opportunity to have freedom in my doctoral research. I will be able to forge my own path in research and learning while attaining my Ph.D.”

Last spring, Shin won a prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship. She plans to earn her Ph.D. in computer science at Harvard University and pursue a position as a professor of computer science. Along the way, she will continue to further her research interests in machine learning and AI.

Hannah Dvorak, a 2020 chemical engineering graduate from Suamico, Wisconsin, received honorable mention from the NSF GRFP.

The NSF GRFP is the country’s oldest graduate fellowship program directly supporting graduate students since 1952. GRFP is a critical program in NSF's overall strategy to develop a globally engaged workforce necessary to ensure the nation's leadership in advancing science and engineering research and innovation. A hallmark of GRFP is its contribution to increasing the diversity of the STEM workforce, including geographic distribution, as well as the participation of women, underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities and veterans.

James Tyler Nichols
James Tyler Nichols
Stephen Parsons
Stephen Parsons
Eura Shin
Eura Shin