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Alumna wins prestigious National Science Foundation graduate fellowship

2021-05-03-Jasmine Williamson
UNG alumna Jasmine Williamson won the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program award in March. Thanks to the highly competitive and prestigious honor, she will receive up to $138,000 in funding for research.

University of North Georgia (UNG) alumna Jasmine Williamson knows without a doubt "if at first you don't succeed, try again."

After her third attempt, Williamson won the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program award in March.

"It's an amazing graduate scholarship and one of the best," said the 2018 UNG graduate, who was camping with friends when she heard the news. "We were celebrating a friend's birthday and it turned into a celebration for me as well."

Thanks to the highly competitive and prestigious honor, Williamson will receive up to $138,000 in funding for research. She plans to design a research project featuring wildlife, which stems from her original research at UNG. Williamson was involved in several projects with Jessy Patterson, lecturer of biology at UNG and one of her mentors.

"I will probably conduct research on salamanders or fish," said Williamson, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. "And I want it to feature conservation and management strategies."

With funding for her research secured, Williamson said a financial weight has been lifted.

"I'm a first-generation college student and I grew up in a low-income household," she said. "Now that I don't have to worry about the money as much, it is just amazing."

The 24-year-old from Cornelia, Georgia, credits UNG for her achievement. She said her membership in the Honors Program was instrumental. It required her to conduct research, which led her to Jessica Patterson and Dr. David Patterson, associate professor of biology. They became her advisers and mentors. She also met Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of research and engagement, who helped hone her scholarship applications.

"They worked with me tirelessly for years," Williamson said, adding she was disappointed after being rejected from the program twice. "I knew good students and smart scientists applied. That meant realistically my chances were low based on the talent pool."

Jessy Patterson and Lin encouraged Williamson to apply again and supported her efforts.

"Jessy Patterson said I needed to apply again, because I would get feedback every time and I could improve," Williamson said. "And I knew I wanted it."

Turns out the third time was the charm. Williamson, who was a McNair Scholar, said she was shocked by the win. Then she cried.

"I still cry when I think about it because it was so overwhelming," Williamson said.

In addition to her, Nathan Clement was designated as an honorable mention for the second year in a row. The May 2020 graduate earned a degree in chemistry major and was an S-STEM scholar on the Gainesville Campus.

Williamson became the fourth UNG alumni to win the coveted prize. In 2019, Caroline Brown was the first UNG student to win it, followed in 2020 by Donna "Katie" McCullough, '16, and Cory Duckworth, '19.

Patterson said Williamson deserved the award for several reasons.

"She is hardworking, reliable, intelligent, humble, and passionate about her work," Patterson said. "Research and field work come naturally to Jasmine, and she is such an asset to the field of ecology and conservation. I look forward to seeing the great things she will accomplish, and I know one day we will get to collaborate on projects again."

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