MTSU Alumni Receive Prestigious Research Fellowship Program Awards


Recent Middle Tennessee State University graduates Jessica Shotwell and Samuel “Sam” Remedios have received notification they are among 2,000 U.S. students named as winners of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program Award.

NSF Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $34,000, plus a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees paid to the institution where they will conduct their research, opportunities for international research and professional development and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institutions.

A Memphis, Tennessee, native, Shotwell, 24, graduated from MTSU in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and minors in African American studies, political and civic engagement and Spanish.

Remedios, 29, a December 2019 graduate, earned his bachelor’s in computer science with a minor in mathematics. He is a native of San Jose, California, attended high school in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, and lives in Nolensville, Tennessee.

Shotwell lives in the Largo and Upper Marlboro, Maryland, area while attending grad school at the University of Maryland in College Park, where she has been a research assistant under a grant from the Maryland Population Research Center.

She said her NSF graduate research topic is “black girls’ and femmes’ experiences” with stress and coping in the U.S. public educational system. Her broader research interests include structural racism and health, education and affect.

Shotwell said she is excited to use her grant “to spend more time reading, writing and crafting my dissertation research.”

After graduating from MTSU, Shotwell worked as a survey interviewer for the Tennessee Department of Health, then worked as a research assistant at University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Upon graduating from the University of Maryland, she plans to become a tenure-track professor and continue her work as a community organizer.

Remedios will be moving soon to Baltimore, Maryland, to attend Johns Hopkins University. He will be researching methods to improve applications of artificial intelligence models to medical image processing.

“The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is the most prestigious award I’ve ever received,” Remedios said. “… This award provides both community and freedom through its associated network and financial support. I am extremely honored.”

A nontraditional student and former musician, Remedios has continued his work as a research assistant with the Henry Jackson Foundation, National Institutes of Health and Vanderbilt since 2017, “researching deep-learning applications for neuroimages in constrained clinical environments,” he said. He received honorable mention for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship as an undergraduate.

Remedios reflects on MTSU days

Remedios planned to become a software engineer when he entered MTSU in 2016. However, “the teaching style of Computer Science Department professors and skill of my peers motivated me to keep pushing forward,” he said.

Organizations like the MTSU Makers Club and Association for Computer Machinery student chapter “developed both my technical and networking ability and opportunities at HackMT (computer science weekend-long hackathon), the James E. Walker Library’s Makerspace and Scholars Week allowed me to practice engineering, communication and leadership skills,” he added.

Mentoring from assistant professor Sal Barbosa led to Scholars Week and the NIH Summer Internship Program and established him in research. His thank-you list also includes faculty and staff members Ryan Otter, Joshua Phillips, Chrisila Pettey, Medha Sarkar, Cen Li, Xiaoya Zha, Neal McClean, Ben Becker, Valerie Hackworth and Bryan Schuder “for their advice, wisdom, collaboration and enthusiasm.”

Remedios said at MTSU “everyone matters and there is a lesson everywhere. Due to the immense diversity of students, staff and faculty, every person I met taught me something important one way or another.”

Shotwell’s time at MTSU

Shotwell entered MTSU in 2013 as one of 20 Honors College Buchanan Fellows, the top scholarship awarded at the university. “Being a Buchanan Fellow and completing an Honors thesis project helped prepare me for the ins and outs of future research,” she said.

Her mentors include political science associate professor Sekou Franklin, sociology professor Gretchen Webber, history associate professor Thomas Bynum and Africana studies associate professor Adoniah Bakari.

Shotwell’s MTSU takeaway: “I learned how to speak my truth and use my voice as a student. I learned how to work with people from all different walks of life while maintaining my integrity. Take a seat! You don’t have to be involved in everything.”

But she was involved … in the Iota Tau Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., in the #iamtrueBLACK Student Activist coalition, Mock Trial, in the Middle Tennessee Performing Arts Company and more.

To learn more …

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program provides support for those at the beginning of their graduate career and individuals seeking to reenter graduate studies following an interruption of at least two consecutive years. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees within the NSF’s mission. For more information, visit

The MTSU Honors College facilitates and advises current and former students when they apply for Fulbright, Goldwater and other similar undergraduate and postgraduate awards. Honors Dean John Vile and staff member Laura Clippard reviewed Remedios’ NSF application and Shotwell received a letter of recommendation from Franklin. To learn more about Honors’ Undergraduate Fellowships Office, call Clippard at 615-898-5464 or email [email protected].

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