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Ursinus Senior Awarded Prestigious NSF Graduate Fellowship

Good things come in threes, and that’s especially true for Ursinus College’s young scientists. Jenna Pellegrino ’17 is the third Ursinus student to earn a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Pellegrino, a biochemistry and molecular biology and French double major from Holland, Pa., will pursue a doctoral degree at the University of California, San Francisco. She is a graduate of Nazareth Academy High School in Philadelphia.

The fellowship provides a $34,000 stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance.

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 in the U.S. and abroad.

“I’m so grateful for the experiences and opportunities I’ve had through Ursinus and I grant a lot of this to starting research early and being part of the FUTURE Program,” Pellegrino says. Ursinus’s FUTURE Summer Research Program provides research opportunities to incoming and first-year Ursinus students.

“I was selected to be part of it after I graduated from high school, so I started research here even before I began my freshman year,” she says. “If I hadn’t been in that program, I don’t think I would have started research so soon. Ursinus is so open to providing research opportunities to any student and it’s a great feeling. It’s something different about Ursinus and you might not get that at a larger university.”

Pellegrino’s current research, with Amanda Reig, an associate professor of chemistry, focuses on protein structure/function relationships. She hopes to continue the research as a doctoral student, and she wants to continue to pursue interests in protein folding, protein binding, and drug discovery. Her Ursinus research experience also led to a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Pennsylvania last summer.

Pellegrino joins Aubrey Paris ’15, who now studies at Princeton University, and Jacob Hollingsworth ’16, who is pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of California, Irvine, as consecutive NSF Graduate Research Fellows.

“I’ve looked up to both of them as far as their level of intellect goes, and now to join their ranks is exciting,” Pellegrino says. “I’m really hard on myself, so winning this is a big deal even though I haven’t fully absorbed it yet. It’s very surreal.” —by Ed Moorhouse