Meet Colgate’s NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Recipients

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Christopher Deng ’22, Lauren Horstmyer ’22, Brianna Jepsen ’20, and Leon Nichols ’23 are Colgate University’s 2023 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recipients.

The GRFP is the biggest nationally competitive fellowship in the United States. It provides support to graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $37,000 and a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees. Further, they have access to opportunities for professional development available to NSF-supported graduate students.

portrait of Christopher Deng
Christopher Deng ’22

Christopher Deng, Mathematical Sciences, Analysis

Deng was a mathematics and economics double major. At Colgate, he was the president of the Math Club, served as a teaching assistant for the mathematics department, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Deng also took an independent study on stochastic calculus with Associate Professor of Mathematics Joe Chen, which resulted in the new course offering MATH 417. As a senior, Deng received the Edwin J. Downie ’33 Award for Mathematics, the Osborne Mathematics Prize, and was a Charles A. Dana Scholar. Currently, Deng is a data analyst at Bloomberg LP and also conducts research on representation theory and operator theory with Associate Professor of Mathematics Jens Christensen, and on partial differential equations and the topic of neutral inclusions with Associate Professor of Mathematics Silvia Jiménez Bolaños. In March 2023, Professor Christensen and Deng published a paper in the Journal of Complex Analysis and Operator Theory. In the fall, Deng will begin as a theoretical mathematics doctoral student at Cornell University.

Lauren Horstmyer at helm of boat
Lauren Horstmyer ’22

Lauren Horstmyer, Life Sciences, Organismal Biology

Horstmyer was a natural sciences major, with a concentration in marine/freshwater science, and an English minor. On campus, she was a geology and biology lab assistant, a yoga instructor, and an ambassador for Women in Ocean Science. Horstmyer is currently a researcher at Sharklab-Malta located in Naxxar, Malta. The NGO focuses on increasing awareness about sharks and rays and leading community-based conservation efforts. She organizes educational outreach initiatives and conducts field-based surveys to collect data on rays. Horstmyer will be pursuing a PhD in fisheries science at Oregon State University, focusing on shark biology.

Portrait of Leon Nichols
Leon Nichols ’23

Leon Nichols, Physics and Astronomy

Nichols is a physics major and art and art history minor from King of Prussia, Pa. On campus, he is president of the Colgate Society of Physics Students, a student ambassador for the American Physical Society, and has served as a teaching assistant for four different physics courses. Since 2021, he has helped research the creation of artificial neurons using Josephson junctions, neuromorphic computation, and macroscopic quantum tunneling with Professor of Physics Ken Segall. In fall 2023, Nichols will begin as a physics doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has also received the Dean of Science’s Graduate Student Fellowship.

Brianna Jepsen in lab
Brianna Jepsen ’20

Brianna Jepsen, Material Research, Chemistry

Jepsen was a chemistry major. At Colgate, she was a chemistry tutor, research assistant, and a leader of the Super Smash Bros. Club. She is currently a second-year doctoral chemistry student at Indiana University–Bloomington, where she works in the Li research group. Her research focuses on studying the photosensitization of graphene quantum dots, a type of carbon-based nanomaterial, for applications in photodynamic therapy as a cancer treatment. Jepsen also participates in outreach with a local high school, for which she conducts brief labs to get students excited about science. She is currently organizing an exhibit at a local science and technology museum, exploring light’s interactions with matter.