Senior Taylor Byrum Honored as NSF Fellow

Oklahoma Baptist University senior Taylor Byrum, a physics and mathematics major from Bentonville, Ark., has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The prestigious fellowship is given to individuals who are pursuing science and technology-related fields in their post-graduate research.

Last spring, Byrum was one of 278 students named a 2009 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar. The nationwide award honors the academic merit of mathematics, science and engineering students.

"Taylor Byrum is one of OBU's best of the best," said Dr. John Nichols, associate professor of mathematics. "He always performs superbly in class and has always been a diligent worker. I was not surprised when he received the Goldwater award. I am not surprised that he was selected for a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship."

Byrum has declared his intent to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for his graduate studies, specializing in condensed matter physics. After completing his doctorate, he hopes to work in scientific research and development.

"One of my favorite things about the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship -- as well as the Goldwater Scholarship -- is to see OBU listed alongside other top programs such as Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard and MIT," said Byrum. "I believe we have high quality students in the science department. I think that's a testimony to our professors who invest a lot of time and energy. I want this fellowship to be just as much of an honor to OBU as it is to me."

Byrum praised Dr. Albert Chen, professor of physics, along with Nichols for contributing to his academic experience during his time on Bison Hill. Both professors were integral in his development as a scientist and mathematician, Byrum said.

According to The National Science Foundation, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is one of the oldest fellowships of its kind. Honoring students with interests in science and technology, the fellowship aids those in pursuit of graduate degrees specializing in such areas. Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Google founder Sergey Brin. According to the NSF, fellows are "anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teachings and innovations in science and engineering."

The NSF awarded 2,000 fellowships nationwide this year. This number is up from the 1,300 awarded in 2009. The 700 new fellowships awarded are due to President Obama's increase in funding for the NSF. The fellowship provides a three-year annual stipend of $30,000; $10,500 cost of allowance to cover tuition and fees; and a one-time $1,000 scholarship for international studies.