Joe Webb, a graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, recently was awarded two fellowships.
Joe Webb, a graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, recently was awarded two fellowships.

Graduate student awarded two highly competitive national fellowships

Joe Webb, a graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University has been awarded two highly competitive national fellowships. Webb was named as a 2017 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Fellow and a 2017 Research Data Alliance (RDA) U.S. Fellow. Selection of these awards were based on the potential to strengthen and advance the vitality of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise.

The NSF GRFP provides fellowships to individuals selected early in their graduate careers based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. This year, the NSF received over 13,000 applications nationwide and Webb was selected to work with scientists from across the world to examine how genetic regulation of brain structures might reveal new insights into how people form memories.

Webb was also named a 2017 Research Data Alliance (RDA) U.S. fellow, a highly selective fellowship for graduate students displaying early signs of cross discipline aptitude, an interest in data, and a deep competency in their discipline. The RDA works to address big data challenges by calling upon researchers who combine data sets from different areas to develop treatments and build infrastructure needed to address data-driven challenges in science and society.

Webb will be working with the RDA to develop software applications that will advance identification, curation, and reuse of publicly available neuroscience data. On a national scale, he will be advocating in Washington, D.C. for drafting new legislation that provides solutions for big data infrastructure problems across the United States. At Iowa State, Webb will be translating these experiences into mentoring workshops to train undergraduate and high school students to work with Big Data.

“It still feels very surreal to receive these honors and I am very humbled to be selected,” Webb said. “I am very thankful for these tremendous opportunities and only hope that I can work to make the NSF and RDA proud of their investment in my future.”

During his graduate career, Webb plans to use these opportunities to study Alzheimer’s disease by examining how genetics may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. Webb’s motivation to study Alzheimer’s stems from losing his grandfather to the disease. Webb wants to fight Alzheimer’s by working toward finding new therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases.

“We can improve the understanding of how our genes regulate brain structure, function, and our ability to remember by taking a multidisciplinary approach; by leveraging human clinical data paired with cultured brain cells and post mortem brain tissue, we will work to identify new targets to track the changes that occur during Alzheimer’s disease,” Webb said. 

Regardless of where his future takes him, Webb is thankful for the NSF fellowship, the RDA fellowship, and all the opportunities that Iowa State has afforded him.

“I am deeply grateful for these rare opportunities and very thankful for everyone at Iowa State who helped make these achievements possible,” Webb said. “I would not be where I am today without the Iowa State community and everyone who has invested in my success along the way.”


Joe Webb, graduate student, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition,

Whitney Sager, communications coordinator, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, 515-294-9166,

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