Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Jill Hauer, a doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Genetics at the University of Iowa, earned a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship for 2017.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) awards fellowships to outstanding graduate students based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering.

"I am very grateful and excited to receive this award,” says Hauer, a native of Story City, Iowa. “I’ve been fortunate to have such great and supportive mentors and colleagues to work with at the University of Iowa, and I’m very humbled to have support from the NSF as well.”

The GRFP provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution) for graduate study that leads to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents and are selected through the NSF peer review process.

In her application, Hauer proposed to study the genetic basis of C3 glomerulopathy, a disease that causes the kidneys to malfunction. Features of this disease include high levels of protein in the urine, blood in the urine, and low levels of protein in the blood.

Hauer intends to use a combination of computational molecular simulations and experimental assays to analyze genetic changes found in patients with the disease.

“These methods will help us determine how and if certain genetic mutations affect the function of the complement pathway,” Hauer says. “Ultimately, these methods will help us develop a tool to make better patient prognoses and treatment decisions based on patients’ personal genetics.”

Michael Schnieders, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, encouraged Hauer to apply for the fellowship and helped her with her application. Schnieders and Richard Smith, professor of otolaryngology and faculty member in genetics, supported her research as an undergraduate and now as a graduate student at the UI.

Hauer also received assistance in the application process from Elizabeth Savelkoul, graduate fellowships specialist at the Graduate College, and Kelly Thornburg, director of scholar development with the UI Honors Program. Hauer gained insight on how to best communicate her research ideas by attending a GRFP workshop presented by the Graduate College.

“I am sincerely thankful to all who have offered assistance at every stage of my University of Iowa experience,” Hauer says.

Four UI graduate students received honorable mention recognition in 2017—John Brammeier (Mathematical Sciences – Computational and Data-enabled Science), Wenqi Duan (Engineering – Optical Engineering), Hannah Miller (Life Sciences – Biochemistry), and Stephanie Silva-Del Toro (Life Sciences – Cell Biology).