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Ashley Martsen named prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellow


Five West Virginia University students have joined an elite group of researchers who’ve been awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

The National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) 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 U.S. institutions. 

This year’s winners are Austin Braniff, of Mineral Wells; Kara Cunningham, of Poca; Courtney Glenn, of Semmes, Alabama; Ashley Martsen-Poulin, of Otis, Massachusetts; and Megan Weaver, of Morgantown.

Ashley MartsenMartsen-Poulin (right) is a graduate student in the WVU Department of Physics and Astronomy, member of the Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology, and member of the North American Nanohertz Observatory (NANOGrav) Scientific Collaboration.

“The impact of the research is the furthering of human knowledge and pushing the boundaries of what we understand about the most extreme objects in our universe,” she said.

Martsen-Poulin never envisioned herself pursuing a PhD. After completing homeschooling, she got a job as a cashier at 17. But when she saw a co-worker do chemistry homework during shifts, inspiration hit her.

She would earn her undergraduate degree at Rochester Institute of Technology in physics while minoring in astronomy, math, English and Italian. She wanted to continue studying pulsars so she came to the WVU Eberly College to work with Maura McLaughlin, an international leader in pulsar astronomy who is credited as one of the discoverers of fast radio bursts.

Artist's depiction of pulsar timing        

Artist’s interpretation of an array of pulsars being affected by gravitational ripples produced by a supermassive black hole binary in a distant galaxy. Credit: Aurore Simonnet for the NANOGrav Collaboration

For me personally I also just think it's just a big honor because of how hard it is to win. Ashley Martsen-Poulin

“She (McLaughlin) guides me on my scientific research and professional development for the field of astrophysics,” Martsen-Poulin said. “But also she’s a supportive person who values my mental and physical health and is always encouraging me to prioritize a healthy balance between my personal life and professional life.”

After completing her doctorate, Martsen-Poulin, also a Ruby Scholars Graduate Fellow, wants to continue working with NANOGrav on pulsar astronomy and pursue a career either in academia or at a radio observatory.



WVU Research Communications

The full press release on the WVU NSF Graduate Research Fellowship winners: