Gustavus Senior Wins National Science Foundation Fellowship

Chemistry and biochemistry and molecular biology major Kaitlyn Gruber will pursue her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin.
Posted on April 8th, 2021 by

Kaitlyn Gruber '21

Gustavus Adolphus College senior Kaitlyn Gruber has been named a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF-GRFP) honoree, joining past fellows including Nobel Prize winners, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin, and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.

Gruber, a chemistry and biochemistry and molecular biology double major from Eden Valley, Minnesota, will begin graduate work at the University of Wisconsin in Madison this fall. The NSF-GRFP will support her graduate work with an annual stipend of $34,000 for three years along with a $12,000 annual allowance for tuition costs and academic expenses.

“Gustavus is a place where you have so many opportunities for research as an undergraduate,” said Gruber, who has been a member of chemistry professor Amanda Nienow’s laboratory throughout her time at Gustavus.

Kaitlyn Gruber in a Gustavus research lab.

“Kaitlyn has worked with me since she was a First-Year Research Experience (FYRE) student. It has been a wonderful experience watching her grow in skill and confidence over the years,” Nienow said. “She has produced high-quality data to help us understand the photochemistry of the herbicide dicamba, while very intentionally mentoring other Gusties in the lab, helping them to also come to a place of ownership and interest in their projects.”

“The FYRE program was really a springboard into understanding the research process and getting to know how science works in the lab,” Gruber said. “Professors are able to invest in students here, which really helps students have the opportunity to succeed.”

The research partnership with Nienow has led to Gruber co-authoring a paper that’s been submitted to the journal Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts, and the opportunity to write operating procedures for numerous experiments and equipment in the laboratory so the project can continue long after she graduates.

“Although this award rightly recognizes Kaitlyn’s intelligence, hard work in the research lab and in the classroom, and her ambition and future goals, I am also very proud of the strong stance and advocacy Kaitlyn takes on social justice issues,” Nienow added, noting that Gruber has been active in Building Bridges, #ShutdownSTEM, and the Chinese Culture Club in addition to keeping faculty members and students connected as a chemistry department academic assistant.

For Gruber, the opportunity to be involved in many facets of campus life is what drew her to Gustavus in the first place.

“In addition to my work in the sciences, I’m interested in art and art history and was a member of the Lucia Singers,” said Gruber, who also completed a research internship at the University of Leipzig through the German Academic Exchange Service’s (DAAD) RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) program. “Gustavus was a place where I could explore multiple paths without feeling boxed in.”

“I came in planning to be an ophthalmologist, but now I’m planning to pursue a PhD in chemistry,” she added. “There’s a spirit of curiosity here that I’ve been able to harness as a Gustavus student.”

In addition to Gruber’s award, recent alumna Hayley Lhotka ’19 earned an NSF-GRFP honorable mention. Lhotka, a Gustavus chemistry graduate, is currently a second-year PhD candidate at the University of Michigan who is working on a project to develop novel ultrahigh-pressure liquid chromatography (UHPLC) separation methods for proteins.

More information about how the Gustavus Fellowships Office supports students is available on the Gustavus website.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States and reinforces its diversity. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin



  1. Gerard Saylor says:

    Go Gusties!

    Great job, Gruber.

  2. Tommy Weber says:

    Eden Valley nurtured and filling us with
    Pride … Awesome accomplishment !

  3. Heather Haemig says:

    Congrats to Kaitlyn and Hayley!