For release: July 9, 2009
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901/678-2843
University of Memphis students Ronné Adkins, Ashley Cox and Duong Nguyen have been
selected to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research
Fellowship (GRF) Award. The grant is based on the students’ abilities and accomplishments
as well as their potential to contribute to the vitality of science and engineering
ventures in the U.S.
Adkins, of Memphis, is a Ph.D. candidate in earth sciences. His dissertation will
focus on the potential of growing switchgrass on a large scale as a substantial energy
source for cellulosic ethanol, and to lessen major erosion problems in the western
grasslands of China. Not only does switchgrass have the ability to produce ethanol,
but it can also control soil erosion and rehabilitate soils. Lessons learned in China
can be applied worldwide to obtain the biggest returns on investment, including environmental,
social and economic benefits.
“The NSF graduate research fellowship is very competitive, and it is considered one
of the most prestigious doctoral fellowships in all of the sciences,” says Dr. Gregory
Taff, assistant professor of earth sciences. “This fellowship will allow Ronné to
focus his full efforts on this very interesting project that could have real impact
on Chinese energy policy and help improve the Chinese environment. Furthermore, research
being conducted in the state of Tennessee is at the forefront of research on switchgrass
for cellulosic ethanol production, and we are collaborating with researchers throughout
the state to further this research through the application of geospatial technologies.”
Both Cox and Nguyen will be pursuing the Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. Cox will
study with Dr. Warren Haggard, professor and holder of the Herff Chair of Excellence
in Biomedical Engineering. She will focus on drug delivery work based on degrading
natural and biological materials. Cox, of Ellisville, Miss., is a graduate of the
University of Southern Mississippi.
Nguyen’s research involves using chitosan as a scaffold material to allow better bone
growth when there are gaps in a fracture site. She will work with Dr. Joel Bumgardner,
associate professor of biomedical engineering. Nguyen, of Memphis, was a member of
the first U of M graduating class in biomedical engineering.
“A special, not obvious fact lies in the great teaching and mentoring that our faculty
provide,” says Dr. Eugene Eckstein, professor and chair of biomedical engineering.
“Coming to the U of M provides the selected environment for learning through regular,
caring interaction with faculty on research projects driven by federal and other funding.”
The award is for full tuition plus $30,000 per year for a maximum of three years.