Ian Slagle

Kohawk receives $230,000 through National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program


Years of studying, hundreds of hours in laboratories and days and nights of networking were about to culminate in an internationally recognized accolade — and Ian Slagle ’22 fell asleep.

To be fair, Ian didn’t know the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) winners were going to be posted the evening of April 3, but he had been checking often since results were expected to be released in early April. So, he checked one last time that night about ten minutes before the winners were released and shut his eyes when there wasn’t any new information.

The next morning, though, got off to an exceptional start when he checked the website shortly after getting up.

Ian Slagle

“It woke me up, that’s for sure,” Ian said. “There was a lot of adrenaline.” 

There was his name, a winner of the distinguished five year fellowship that supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. Between research stipends and cost of education allowances, Ian had just been awarded $230,000 for computationally intensive materials research.

“I was a bit overwhelmed, but incredibly grateful and excited for the possibilities [the fellowship] unlocks with my future research,” Ian said.

His research will take him to Georgia Institute of Technology, commonly referred to as Georgia Tech, in the fall to pursue his doctorate in computational science and engineering (materials science and engineering). The research project he proposed for the GRFP relates to working on methods to discover new materials and behaviors faster, beginning with battery cathodes.

What’s just as impressive is how he — and others in the broader Coe community — put him in position to earn the prestigious honor. The power of the Kohawk network was on full display.

Coe’s most recent GRFP recipients helped him with his application. Ian’s partner, Kalina Eskew ’21, received the GRFP one year ago, and two recent physics alumni, Nathan Dvorak ’19 and Rebecca Welch ’20, were awarded the GRFP in 2019 and 2020 respectively. In all, there have been six Kohawk GRFP winners in the last six years. An amazing streak, since only about 2,000 of the 12,000 applicants are accepted annually.

B.D. Silliman Professor of Physics Steve Feller and Assistant Professor of Mathematical Science Michael Stobb wrote letters of recommendation. Steve connected Ian with Coe alumnus Faisal Alamgir ’96 who will be Ian’s advisor at Georgia Tech and helped him develop his research plan. Even Ian’s internship supervisor at Corning put in a good word via a recommendation. It made a difference, as Ian said the letters of recommendation were often cited by the NSF in the reviews of his application.

But the connections also helped Ian get a head start on his doctoral program.

“The other thing about the GRFP is that it is also a research proposal. Which means it provided an excellent opportunity for me to work together with my soon-to-be advisor, Dr. Alamgir, as well as Dr. Alena Alamgir, who is a specialist in technical communication. With their help, I put together a proposal not just for the purpose of this application, but to provide a starting point for my Ph.D.,” Ian said.

It’s all the culmination of an undergraduate experience at Coe full of “rare and appealing” opportunities according to Ian.

“There were three factors that I consider to be most influential in the success of my application: my major plan, published research and networking with experts,” Ian summarized.

Ian’s advisor, Professor of Mathematics Kent Herron, helped him develop a unique major plan starting early in his Coe career. With Kent’s guidance, Ian has been able to secure a quintuple major in physics, chemistry, data science, computer science and mathematics. During his visit to campus as a prospective student, Ian connected with Fran Allison and Francis Halpin Professor of Physics Mario Affatigato ’89 who helped Ian secure a research opportunity the summer before his first-year classes began. He has since completed two full summers of research in the physics department, and last summer was a glass development intern at Corning.

“All of these contacts were made through Coe physics connections, whether it be through research, internship opportunities, or in the Alamgirs' case, Dr. Feller's alumni newsletter,” Ian said.

“Looking back, there were some genuinely amazing opportunities I had at Coe,” he added.

Currently, Ian is back at Corning for the summer interning as a research statistician. He will move to Atlanta in August to begin his graduate studies at Georgia Tech.