Shelby Horth awarded NSF Graduate Fellowship

Applied mathematics researcher and private pilot Shelby Horth has earned a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award to study aeronautics.

Horth, a May 2024 Wake Forest graduate, will pursue a doctorate in applied mathematics at the University of Arizona. Her research will explore complex mathematical models and their real-world applications in aeronautics/aerospace, potentially leading to breakthroughs in signal processing, information processing, optimization and predictive modeling. 

Senior Showcase

Learn more about Shelby Horth’s experiences at Wake Forest. Check out her Out of the Forest (‘24) Senior Showcase video and Q&A.

“Being awarded the fellowship is an incredible honor and a pivotal milestone in my academic and professional research career,” said Horth. “This fellowship validates the significance of my research in applied mathematics. It also provides the necessary resources and support for me to delve deeper into innovative problem-solving.”

As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the reputation of the GRFP follows recipients as they become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to scientific innovation and teaching. Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, Google founder, Sergey Brin and Freakonomics co-author, Steven Levitt.

NSF-GRFP fellowships provide a three-year annual stipend of $37,000 along with a $16,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, as well as access to opportunities for professional development available to NSF-supported graduate students.

“The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program empowers me to push the boundaries of current knowledge and contribute meaningful advancements to the field.” Shelby Horth ('24)

Between her first year and sophomore year at Wake Forest, Horth changed course from a pre-med track to majoring in applied mathematics. Her mentor, mathematics professor John Gemmer, encouraged her to apply for summer research experiences at external institutions, which reinforced her enthusiasm and eventually became the basis of her application for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which she was awarded in April 2023.

“Professor Gemmer opened countless doors I wouldn’t have known existed otherwise. He has left an indelible mark on my undergraduate career, pushing me to apply for, engage in, and seek out opportunities that have reinforced goals,” Horth said.

Gemmer, who has mentored nearly a dozen Wake Forest students who have gone on to win prestigious scholarships, said that over his nearly two decades as a teacher he has never encountered a student at such an early stage in their academic career who was so driven and prepared to pursue a PhD. 

“Shelby enrolled in some of the math department’s most challenging courses, participated in two NSF-funded research experiences for undergraduate students, and completed an honors thesis. Her personal drive will allow her to succeed in the academically rigorous environment of a PhD program,” he said.

“My ultimate career goals encompass using the advanced research application skills gained through the program’s intensive training to pursue a career as a research mathematician for an aeronautics organization,” Horth said.

The on-campus preparation and nomination process for external scholarships is coordinated through the Wake Forest University Scholars Office and led by STEM Scholarships Faculty Director James Pease. Interested students are invited to visit the website to learn more and arrange an appointment.

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