Kelly Stano, a Ph.D. student pursuing dual degrees in Fiber and Polymer Science as well as Materials Science and Engineering, has recently been awarded the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRF).  While Kelly was pursuing her M.S. in Textile Engineering at N.C. State, her advisor, Dr. Philip Bradford, encouraged her to apply for the prestigious fellowship.  Her original proposal titled, “Novel Coating Technique for the Improvement of Interfacial Bonding in Carbon Nanotube/Silicon Carbide Composites” was one of 2,000 awarded out of over 12,000 applications.
The NSF GRF is a five-year award with a value totaling $126,000 and includes many opportunities for international research experiences as well as access to Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) cyberinfrastructure resources.  Since the program began in 1952, 48,500 fellowships have been awarded.   Past fellows include U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu; Google Founder, Sergey Brin; Freakonomicsco-author, Steven Levitt; 30 Nobel Laureates; and 440 members of the National Academy of Sciences.
“NSF Fellows are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering.  These individuals are crucial to maintaining and advancing the nation’s technological infrastructure and national security as well as contributing to the economic well-being of society at large.”

Though she had the option to attend virtually any university in the country, Kelly decided to continue her graduate education at N.C. State and the Wilson College of Textiles. “My decision was easy,” she said. “There is a lot to be said about the climate in Raleigh and NC State … both weather and research-wise.  Here in the Wilson College of Textiles we have a highly unique conglomeration of professors with a wide variety of backgrounds and expertise.  Today’s research problems are complicated, multi-faceted and interdisciplinary in their very nature, and the collaborative research environment I’ve found here at N.C. State is a huge asset for aspiring scientists.  Both during my M.S. and now in my Ph.D., I have been able to reach out to several professors both in and out of my department to start collaborations that have been integral to the success of my research.”
Kelly is continuing her Ph.D. research in Dr. Bradford’s Carbon Nanotube Textile Group, which focuses on integrating carbon nanotubes (CNTs), a multifunctional nanomaterial, into more traditional composite structures and textile processes. “Carbon nanotubes have been at the core of my study ever since I began with undergraduate research during my freshman year here at N.C. State … and many research problems remain unanswered.” CNTs are widely regarded as a game-changing material due to their unique combination of being simultaneously ultra high strength and ultra lightweight.  Additionally, their electrical and thermal conductivities can rival or even exceed that of metals.


Kelly Stano collecting carbon nanotube sheets.

While researching for her M.S., Kelly helped design and construct a reactor that can synthesize large quantities of CNTs with high reproducibility.  They are grown in such a way that the CNTs are vertically aligned to form forests or carpets on a substrate.  She describes, “In this unique morphology, we can fill the interstitial spaces with polymer fluids or metal nanoparticles, draw them into ribbons, spin them into yarns, or further process them to make ultra low density foams.  The applications for this technology are endless and include composite foams for aircraft, cooling devices for electronics, high performance non-woven filtration, Li-ion batteries, and even integrated smart sensors for structural composites.  The array of projects going on within our group and the College is inspiring and exciting and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue my education and personal development in this atmosphere.”

For more information about the NSF GRFP, visit