Engineering graduate earns elite NSF fellowship award

Jun 11, 2024 | Engineering and Science, Research, Students

Louisiana Tech biomedical engineering graduate Catherine Lacey was recently awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP), paving the way for continuing her education. Lacey—one of a select few among more than 10,000 applicants to receive the fellowship—earned this coveted award due to her exemplary academic performance, demonstrated leadership, and extensive research experience.

Encouragement from her Louisiana Tech mentors was crucial in navigating the challenging application process. Her research supervisor, Dr. Mary Caldorera-Moore, and academic advisor, Dr. Matthew Hartmann, were particularly influential. Their support inspired her to apply despite the stiff competition.

When asked about Lacey’s work ethic, Biomedical Engineering Program Chair Dr. Louis Reis stated, “Catherine demonstrates the potential that all of our students are capable of. Whether through her studies, her work, or her leadership and service, Catherine clearly shows that she is an elite student who can compete with the top students from any university in our nation. We are delighted by this announcement and are extremely proud of Catherine and the work she has done to receive this prestigious fellowship and represent our university.”

Lacey credits her undergraduate experiences at Tech, including first-year engineering program Living with the Lab and the opportunity to tackle real-world problems in Caldorera-Moore’s lab, as transformative. These opportunities honed her skills and built her confidence to pitch her research interests.

“All the projects and extracurricular activities I did throughout my education here at Tech were crucial in helping me get my REU (research experience for undergraduates), internship, and, eventually, the NSF GRFP,” she said.

Building on her first-year hands-on experience in Living with the Lab, she joined Caldorera-Moore’s lab her sophomore year. There, her work sharpened her engineering skills and confidence. This experience led to her participation in the NSF REU at the University of Texas at Austin, where she researched a self-regulated biostimulation device, and an internship at Medtronic.

The application featured a personal essay outlining her goals and a research proposal for graduate school. Lacey’s prior graduate-level research experience was vital, providing her with the technical knowledge and confidence to pitch her ideas.

When asked what the award meant to her, Lacey stated: “I am incredibly honored to be awarded the NSF GRFP as I continue my studies at Georgia Tech for an advanced degree in Electrical Engineering. This award will fully fund my graduate education and empower me to direct my own research. I want to thank my family, friends, professors, and mentors who have supported and encouraged me to continue to strive for excellence. These people believed in me and showed me that I could accomplish something incredible long before I did, and for that, I will be forever grateful.”


This story was written by MBA student Daniel Young.