Three Fords Earn NSF Graduate Research Fellowships
Joie Ling ’20, Abi Mumme-Monheit ’20, and Camille Samuels ’21 received fellowships from the National Science Foundation that will support their graduate education and research.
Three Haverford alumni who are pursuing or will be pursuing graduate studies in microbiology, genetics, and cultural anthropology have received awards this year from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP). The oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the NSF GRFP provides a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees, as well as opportunities for international research and professional career development. This year, the NSF offered graduate research fellowships to 2193 students pursuing research-based master’s or doctoral degrees at institutions in the United States. Among them are Joie Ling ’20, Abi Mumme-Monheit ’20, and Camille Samuels ’21.
Ling has spent the two years since her Haverford graduation as a post-baccalaureate research fellow at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, studying the role of quorum-sensing in gram positive bacteria pathogenesis in the host gut. The NSF GRFP will support her research at the Microbiology Doctoral Training Program at University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is matriculating this fall.
“While my graduate project is not set yet, I aim to research microbial pathogenesis and microbe-host interactions and on a molecular/chemical level,” she said. “While my research will be a big component of my time in graduate school, I plan on continuing my work focused on increasing science accessibility for all ages and populations during graduate school and beyond.”
At Haverford, Ling majored in chemistry, minored in health studies, and concentrated in biochemistry. She worked in Professor of Chemistry Casey Londergan’s lab under the joint mentorship of Londergan and Associate Professor of Chemistry Lou Charkoudian.
“My time at Haverford has had an immense influence on me and how I approach my science,” she said. “The interdisciplinary nature of my studies has trained me to look at problems with multiple perspectives and to place that problem in context of larger systems. Being able to think in context not only aids my research, it enables me to be a good science communicator and to keep my science accessible. Haverford has taught me how science does not and cannot operate in a vacuum and critical thought must always be given to how science interacts with the rest of society.”
Mumme-Monheit is in her second year of her graduate program at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, where she is researching developmental genetics in Jamie Nichols’ lab.
“In my research, I am using a zebrafish model to investigate the mechanisms of incomplete penetrance,” she said. “Incomplete penetrance is when some individuals are dramatically affected by a deleterious mutation, and others are resilient to it. It’s a phenomenon that has long perplexed geneticists, and this fellowship will fund my current research investigating factors that regulate incomplete penetrance.”
Mumme-Monheit hopes her Ph.D. research will lay the groundwork for a career studying other human diseases, including eventually contributing to clinical applications in areas like gene- and stem cell-based therapies.
At Haverford, she majored in biology and minored in health studies, mentored by visiting assistant professors Jay Lunden and David Higgins. It was Higgins who fortified her interest in genetics and advised her senior thesis, “Investigating the Fitness Defects in Abnormal Zea mays by Studying Expression of bHLH208 in the K10L2 Haplotype.”
“Haverford allowed me to perform independent research from an early stage in my scientific career, giving me the opportunity to discover the types of work I am passionate about,” she said. “Further, community engagement is integral to the Haverford experience, and community outreach is a large portion of the NSF GRFP. At Haverford I started a non-profit CrossFit affiliate that served as a safe space for students from all backgrounds to work out in community. I have continued my fitness-based outreach in Colorado, where I now run an inclusive fitness class for LGBTQ+ middle and high schoolers.”
Samuels is also currently finishing the first year of her Ph.D. program. She studies cultural anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. The graduate research fellowship will help support the next three years of her program—about half of its remaining length—allowing her to focus on her own coursework and research instead of working as a teaching assistant.
“Currently my research applies Black Feminist Ecological frameworks to explore the practice of abolitionist food justice in Black communities in the U.S.,” she said. “While I’ve been looking at urban gardening specifically, I am excited to expand to other forms of food production and consumption as well.”
She first began that research for her Haverford senior thesis, “‘Land Is Revolution’: Unearthing the Transformative Power of Black Gardening in Washington, D.C.” Mentored by William H. and Johanna A. Harris Professor in Environmental Studies and Chemistry Helen White and Assistant Professor of Health Studies Anna West, as well as support from anthropology professors Juli Grigsby and Elena Guzman, Samuels created her own independent major in health, science, and societies and earned minors in Africana studies and environmental studies. Last year, she earned Haverford’s Clementine Cope Fellowship, a 100-year-old fellowship supporting Fords’ graduate studies.
“My Haverford experience was extremely influential on my decision to pursue graduate school and apply for this fellowship,” she said. “While I was at the College, I found that I was often encouraged to push boundaries and pursue experiences that did not necessarily line up with my academic trajectory. Having the space to adjust the curriculum in a way that nurtured my learning through my independent major was really unique! … I feel that I fully benefited from the flexibility and challenges of the liberal arts, and I bring those unique ways of learning and thinking into my graduate studies.”
An additional three Haverford members of the Class of 2020 were recognized with honorable mentions by the NSF GRFP: Sam Ditkovsly, who researches physical oceanography at Princeton; Sara Matsumura, a sustainable chemistry researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Dominick Rowan, who studies astronomy and astrophysics at Ohio State University.