April 19, 2006 | By: Carol Lea Spence

Ester Dittert, a University of Kentucky College of Agriculture graduate student, has received a 2006 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Award.

The Lexington native is a student in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, researching more efficient methods for ethanol production under the direction of Associate Professor Sue Nokes. Though Dittert did not come from a farm background, her knack for science made the College of Agriculture a perfect fit.

“When I was in high school, I just excelled in math and science,” said Dittert. “So I knew I wanted to do engineering and I was kind of interested in genetic engineering. When I started at UK I was in chemical engineering, but then I switched over to here (BAE). It seemed to me to be more of what I wanted to do. Then once I got over here, I just loved these professors. All of the faculty are just so great. I give them a lot of credit for my developed interest in ag.”

Nokes, who has been Dittert’s adviser since her undergraduate days, suggested that she try for the fellowship.

“She’s an excellent student and she’s really interested in the topic,” Nokes said. “That combination of interest and talent is what prompted me to encourage her to apply.”

The NSF annually awards 1,000 fellowships to science, math and engineering students around the country. The fellowship provides three years of funding that can be used over a five-year period. The funding includes a stipend, full tuition and support for travel and study expenses. Because it is not tied to any particular research project or school, the student is given a certain amount of flexibility in using the funds. For Dittert, it means she can continue her studies after she receives her master’s degree in 2007.

“I’m definitely considering going on and getting my Ph.D.,” she said. “I was using this award to help me decide.”



Ester Dittert, (859) 272-8816