Press Release

Ohio Wesleyan Graduate Awarded National Science Foundation Fellowship

April 21, 2016 – by Cole Hatcher

Breane Budaitis, a 2014 OWU graduate who studied chemistry and genetics, has earned a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Breane Budaitis, Class of 2014, Pursuing Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University alumna Breane Budaitis, Class of 2014, was selected from nearly 17,000 applicants to receive a 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

The competitive fellowship provides Budaitis with a three-year annual stipend of $34,000, a tuition waver, and countless research and professional development opportunities as she pursues her doctorate in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan.

At Ohio Wesleyan, Budaitis was a double-major in chemistry and genetics, and she assisted in plant research conducted by botany-microbiology professor Chris Wolverton, Ph.D.

“[T]his research experience brought to light the power of creativity in the sciences, reaffirming my aspiration to pursue a research-focused career,” Budaitis said of her work in the Wolverton laboratory, where she supported his research into how plant roots sense and respond to gravity and light.

“My undergraduate experiences at OWU solidified my love for research and provided a solid foundation to pursue science in graduate school,” she said, noting especially the impact of serving as a teaching assistant in organic chemistry labs and tutoring students in biology. “Both experiences have led me to also work toward completing the graduate teacher certificate program at the University of Michigan, with the hope of eventually teaching and conducting research at the undergraduate level.”

Currently, Budaitis works in the laboratory of Kristen Verhey, Ph.D., in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan Medical School. Budaitis said her current research utilizes “a combination of molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysical techniques to study how kinesins function in the complex cellular environment.”

“Like a city, a cell relies on a delivery system to transport organelles, proteins, mRNA, or other biomolecules to specific cellular locations,” Budaitis explained. “To do this, all cells contain a network of highways and local roads that extend throughout the cell. A group of specialized proteins called kinesins can move along these ‘cellular roads’ like cars and pull ‘trailers’ full of material to their cellular destinations.”

Budaitis, from Darien, Illinois, is working to understand how specific kinesins perform specific functions within the “cellular city” in order to advance the understanding of how cells complete fundamental processes. She hopes to complete her degree in 2019.

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), it named 2,000 individuals as recipients of 2019 Graduate Research Fellowships, with recipients selected “based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in (science and engineering).”

“The Graduate Research Fellowship Program is a vital part of our efforts to foster and promote excellence in U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics by recognizing talent broadly from across the nation,” Joan Ferrini-Mundy, NSF assistant director for education and human resources,” said in announcing this year’s fellowships. “These awards are provided to individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements, and they are investments that will help propel this country's future innovations and economic growth.”

Learn more about the NSF and its Graduate Research Fellowship Program at www.nsfgrfp.org. Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Chemistry at www.owu.edu/chemistry and Department of Botany/Microbiology at www.owu.edu/bomi.


Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers 87 undergraduate majors and competes in 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Ohio Wesleyan combines a challenging, internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities to connect classroom theory with real-world experience. OWU’s 1,675 students represent 43 U.S. states and territories and 33 countries. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the latest President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at www.owu.edu.