Renallan Neckles (pictured above) is the recipient of the National Science Foundation Fellowship.

Renallan Neckles (senior, chemistry biochemistry physics engineer), a student in the Robert E. Cook Honors College (CHC), has been selected for a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSFGRF).

The NSFGRF is a competitive national fellowship program meant to support students who are looking to earn a research-based master’s degree or PhD in any field that qualifies as science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). The award provides three years of financial support (that can be used only five years after receiving the award). The awarded support includes a stiped of $37,000 and an allowance of $12,000 for tuition and fees.

Neckles, who will be graduating from IUP this May with a 4.0 grade point average, will be using his award at Rice University in Texas, where he was admitted into the Master of Science Environmental Engineering program.

Originally, Neckles planned to focus solely on environmental engineering, in order to work toward a PhD in the same field. However, he is now considering exploring the fields of chemical and biomolecular engineering as well as environmental engineering. After getting his PhD, Neckles may pursue some post-doctoral work or industry research work.

Neckles credits his experience at IUP as the catalyst for wanting to explore the biomolecular field.

“After taking Principles of Cell and Molecular Biology with Dr. Robert Major, which is a required course in the environmental engineering program, I became interested in the bio-focused aspects of environmental engineering,” Neckles stated in a press release.

According to that same press release, Neckles’s goal is “to contribute to ensuring the sustainable supply and protection of water through water science and technology research.”

Additionally, Neckles also wants to credit the CHC for laying down the foundation necessary for him to succeed with his NSFGRF selection.

Students enrolled in the CHC are required to complete an “honors experiential” component by their graduation. Such component may be met with experimental research, studying abroad, or internships. Neckles completed his through experimental research.

“I decided to explore a research experience, which led me to the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates summer program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology where I worked in the Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology Lab in the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science,” Neckles commented.

Neckles says that if it were not for the CHC experiential requirement, he wouldn’t have earned the fellowship award.

“The Cook Honors College played an important role,” Neckles stated. “Securing the NSF Fellowship could probably not have happened without the experiential component requirement. I like to call it the CHC honors experiential effect. It pushed me to pursue a research experience through the NSF REU and my application for the GRFP was basically an offshoot of my research experience through the REU.”

Before receiving the fellowship, Neckles was also awarded with a Departmental Academic Achievement Award in the Spring of 2022 from the IUP Madia Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics and Engineering.

Additionally, Neckles has currently been working as a writing tutor in IUP’s Kathleen Jones White Writing Center since Fall of 2022 and also volunteered at the Western Pennsylvania High School Science Bowl Tournament, the Ebensburg annual Potato Festival, as well as in the Newman Center book sale.

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