News Release

Gulf Research Program announces 2017 Early-Career Research and Science Policy Fellowships

The Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine today announced the recipients of its Early-Career Research Fellowships and Science Policy Fellowships for 2017

Grant and Award Announcement

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

WASHINGTON - The Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine today announced the recipients of its Early-Career Research Fellowships and Science Policy Fellowships for 2017. These competitive awards are among a suite of program activities aimed at supporting the development of future generations of scientists, engineers, and health professionals prepared to work at the intersections of oil system safety, human health and well-being, and environmental stewardship in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. outer continental shelf regions.

"This year marks the Gulf Research Program's third class of fellows," said Maggie Walser, director of education and capacity building for the Gulf Research Program. "The talented and promising researchers and professionals receiving these awards will add to a growing network of future leaders in the science, engineering, and health professions that can work together to tackle the complex, interdisciplinary challenges that face the Gulf coast and other coastal regions. The ultimate impact of these fellows will extend far beyond the lengths of their fellowship terms."

The Early-Career Research Fellowships recognize professionals at the critical pre-tenure phase of their careers for exceptional leadership, past performance, and potential for future contributions to improving oil system safety, human health and well-being, or environmental protection. Each fellow receives an award of $76,000, paid to their institution in the form of a two-year grant, for research expenses and professional development. In addition, fellows receive professional guidance from a mentor who is a senior faculty member at their home institution to foster their development as leaders.

In alphabetical order, the 10 recipients of the 2017 Early-Career Research Fellowships are:

Christoph Aeppli, Ph.D. (Environmental Chemistry), senior research chemist, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, East Boothbay, Maine
Mentor: David Fields

Laura Bakkensen, Ph.D. (Environmental and Natural Resource Economics), assistant professor, University of Arizona, Tucson
Mentor: Bonnie Colby

Paul Harnik, Ph.D. (Evolutionary Biology), assistant professor, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa.
Mentor: Dorothy Merritts

YeongAe Heo, Ph.D. (Civil and Environmental Engineering), assistant professor, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland
Mentor: Hatsuo Ishida

Michael Martinez-Colon, Ph.D. (Oceanography), assistant professor, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee
Mentor: Charles Jagoe

Ali Mostafavi, Ph.D. (Civil Engineering), assistant professor, Texas A&M University, College Station
Mentor: Philip Berke

David Murphy, Ph.D. (Civil and Environmental Engineering), assistant professor, University of South Florida, Tampa
Mentor: Kendra Daly

Ashley Ross, Ph.D. (Political Science), assistant professor, Texas A&M University, Galveston
Mentor: Sam Brody

Wanyun Shao, Ph.D. (Geography), assistant professor, Auburn University, Montgomery, Ala.
Mentor: Kimberly Brackett

J. Cameron Thrash, Ph.D. (Microbiology), assistant professor, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Mentor: Nancy Rabalais

The Science Policy Fellowships are focused on leadership development and capacity building at the science-policy interface by providing fellows with a one-year experience on the staff of a federal or state environmental, natural resources, oil and gas, or public health agency in the Gulf of Mexico region. The fellowships are awarded to graduate or professional students or those who have completed their studies within the past five years and demonstrate a strong scientific or technical background, superior academic achievement, and leadership qualities. Fellows receive an annual stipend of $45,000 for current students or $55,000 for graduates. In addition, fellows are paired with a mentor at their host offices and have opportunities for professional development.

In alphabetical order, the nine recipients of the 2017 Science Policy Fellowships are:

Brittany Bernik, Ph.D. (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), Tulane University
Host Office: RESTORE Council, New Orleans

Brittany Blomberg, Ph.D. (Coastal and Marine System Science), Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi
Host Office: Texas General Land Office, Austin

Stephen Durham, Ph.D. (Paleontology), Cornell University
Host Office: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Tallahassee

Janessy Frometa, M.S. (Marine Biology), College of Charleston
Host Office: NOAA Restore Act Science Program, Stennis, Miss.

Krista Jankowski, Ph.D. candidate (Earth and Environmental Sciences), Tulane University
Host Office: Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Baton Rouge

Meredith Jennings, Ph.D. (Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry), University of Miami
Host Office: Harris County Public Health, Houston

Philip Lee, Ph.D. candidate (Biological Sciences), University of Alabama
Host Office: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-Gulf of Mexico Program, Gulfport, Miss.

Laura Mansfield, M.A. (Law and Diplomacy), Tufts University
Host Office: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Gulf of Mexico Office, New Orleans

David Reeves, Ph.D. candidate (Oceanography and Coastal Science), Louisiana State University
Host Office: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lafayette, La.


The Gulf Research Program, a program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, was established in 2013 as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and seeks to improve understanding of the interconnecting human, environmental, and energy systems of the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. outer continental shelf areas. The program funds grants, fellowships, and other activities using three broad approaches: research and development, education and training, and environmental monitoring. To learn more about the Gulf Research Program, including fellowships and other funding opportunities, visit More information about the 2017 Gulf Research Program fellows is available at

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. The Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit


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