Two Auburn University seniors awarded National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships

AUBURN – Auburn University students Bianca Williams, a senior in chemical engineering, and Devin Kalafut, a senior in mechanical engineering, have been awarded National Science Foundation graduate fellowships; Matthew Ramirez, a 2011 graduate in the College of Sciences and Mathematics was named honorable mention.

Each fellowship provides three years of support at $30,000 annually and an additional $10,500 cost of education allowance. The purpose of the fellowship program is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States.

Williams, a senior Honors College student, is completing her honors thesis under the direction of Elizabeth Lipke in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Williams’ research project is part of the Lipke lab’s effort to guide the differentiation of mouse embryonic and human induced pluripotent stem cells into cardiomyocytes, which could eventually be used for the treatment of heart disease.

Outside the classroom and lab, Williams is actively involved with Auburn’s Minority Engineering Program where she serves as a mentor to middle and high school students at the Boys and Girls Club. In the spring of 2011, she served as conference chair for the National Association of Black Engineers Annual Meeting held in St. Louis.

Kalafut is a member of the Honors College and a current undergraduate research fellow. He is completing his honors thesis under the direction of Jay Khodadadi in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Their work focuses on developing suitable techniques for manufacturing synthetic bone tissue. Specifically, the goal of the  project is to construct a lab scale specimen of tissue scaffolding that has the identical porosity and strength of human bone.

As president of Auburn University’s chapter of Pi Tau Sigma, the mechanical engineering honor society, Kalafut is actively involved in promoting science, engineering and mathematics to middle and high school students. Additionally, he organizes study sessions for finals in all major mechanical engineering courses as a department outreach activity.

Ramirez, a 2011 Honors College graduate, has worked under the direction of Wendy Hood. He completed his honors thesis on the functional changes in the gastrointestinal tract of lactating Columbian ground squirrels.

The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. For more information, go to

(Written by Paul Harris.)

Contact: Paul Harris, The University Honors College, (334) 844-5860 (, or
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (