Wheeler Receives NSF Fellowship

Alumni, Natural Sciences, News
Dillon Wheeler

Dillon Wheeler, a 2022 Lee University graduate, was recently awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).  

The GRFP is a competitive fellowship for graduate students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. Winners of the GRFP receive three years of financial support, including a full-ride scholarship and an annual stipend of $37,000. For 2022, there were about 13,000 applications across the United States representing over 100 academic subfields. Approximately 2,000 applicants were awarded with the GRFP. 

“Receiving this fellowship has opened so many doors, and it would be disingenuous to mention these opportunities without acknowledging the constant guidance I have received from Lee professors like Thaddeus McRae, Michael Freake, and Alan Wheeler,” said Dillon. “Their support has shaped my academic development, and I am immensely grateful.” 

Wheeler graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology. While at Lee, Wheeler was involved in multiple ecological research projects and was awarded first place for his poster presentation at a McNair-Ledford Research Symposium. Additionally, he served as the recycling officer for the Creation Care Club and worked as a resident assistant for three years in Medlin Hall and B.L. Hicks Hall. 

As a National Science Foundation Fellow, Wheeler will be conducting research at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute this summer. In the fall, he will begin pursuing a one-year Master of Science (MS) in ecology at Tulane University. After completing his MS, he plans to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy as a research ecologist. 

“Dillon thinks well, but Dillon also lives well,” said McRae, associate professor of biology. “He fully embraces the opportunities to understand other cultures, to explore, hike, and climb in diverse ecosystems, and generally to experience the richness of life on earth. His NSF GRFP is well earned, and I’m excited to see what he uncovers in his ongoing work as an ecologist and as a human seeking to love God and neighbor well.” 

The NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.” 

For more information about NSF or GRFP, visit

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