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McKnight Doctoral Fellows

McKnight Fellowship Website (opens in a new tab)

About the Fellowship

Established in 1984, the FEF's McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program has increased the number of African Americans who have earned Ph.D.'s in historically underrepresented, crucial disciplines where African Americans have not historically enrolled and completed degree programs. The FEF has awarded more than 750 Fellowships to African Americans and Hispanics pursuing Ph.D.'s, and the Program enjoys an impressive retention rate of over 84%. More than 500 Fellows have graduated with Ph.D.'s, in an average completion time of 5.5 years.


The McKnight Doctoral Fellowship program is designed to address the under-representation of African American and Hispanic faculty at colleges and universities in the state of Florida by increasing the pool of citizens qualified with Ph.D. degrees to teach at the college and university levels. As a by-product, it is expected that employment opportunities in industry will also be expanded.

The Award

Up to 50 Fellowships are awarded annually to study at one of nine participating Florida universities. Each award provides annual tuition up to $5,000 (tuition above this amount is waived by the participating institution) for each of three academic years plus an annual stipend of $12,000. (An additional two years of support at this same level is provided by the participating institution.) The award also includes a comprehensive system of academic support.

Each annual renewal is contingent upon satisfactory performance and normal progress toward the Ph.D. degree.

2016-2017 USF McKnight Doctoral Fellows

Evans Bernardin
Biomedical Engineering
B.S., Chemical Engineering, Florida State University
M.S., Biomedical Engineering, University of South Florida
Research Interests:

Evans investigates the development of an all-sillicon carbide neural electrode for deep brain stimulation. His goal is to develop electrodes to solve the bio- and hemocompatibility issues plagueing current generation electrodes. His research will potentially improve the quality of life for millions of people worldwide who suffer from neurodegenerative disease and spinal cord injuries.

Michelle Henderson
Environmental Engineering
B.S., Earth and Atmospheric Science, City College of New York
Research Interests:

Michelle studies pathogenic microorganism in wastewater treatment systems. Her goal is to assess the risk associated with wastewater reuse using quantitative and laboratory methods. This research aims to apply the environmental, economic, and social ideals of sustainability to wastewater treatment research to protect the health of public and advanced wastewater treatment systems technology.

Girsea Martinez
B.A., Political Science, Texas A&M University
M.A., Sociology, Texas Tech University
Research Interests:

Fear and anxiety shape the experiences of undocumented immigrants. Girsea explores the lives of undocumented young adults within the realm of social psychology, with a goal of developing ways to address identity dilemmas and mental health issues in this population. This research will contribute to the growing body of studies on people at the intersection of immigration status, race, gender, and class.

Rasheda Toomer
Biomedical Engineering
B.S., Bioengineering, North Carolina A&T State University
Research Interests:

Rasheda is interested in alternative drug delivery systems. Her goal is to develop a system for the targeted delivery of drugs, specifically chemotherapeutics. This research will benefit society by reducing the effects of chemotherapy and the risk of recurrence.