The National Science Foundation has named 24 University of Maryland students as fellows for the foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

The fellowships are awarded to students in STEM fields who pursue research-based masters and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive an annual stipend of $34,000 and $12,000 to offset educational costs such as books and tuition.

Undergraduate students can also win the fellowships if they will pursue a graduate degree in a STEM field, said Gisele Muller-Parker, program director for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Thirty-one undergraduate and graduate students and alumni from this university received honorable mentions in addition to the winners of the fellowship, said Jeffrey Franke, interim dean of the university's graduate school.

"They're very prestigious and competitive awards," Franke said. "It's a recognition of student's potential in STEM and engineering fields."

Over 13,000 students applied to the fellowship nationwide and 2,000 were chosen. The fellowship offers opportunities to train the next generation of scientists, Franke said.

"We are proud of our students for receiving such a highly competitive award, and are excited about the future contributions they will make in their fields through extensive research, innovation, and thoughtful leadership," Francis DuVinage, director of National Scholarships Office and Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research, said in a press release.

The foundation chooses fellows from candidates across the country. Fellows have the opportunity to participate in international research through several NSF initiatives and develop their own research projects, Muller-Parker said.

The fellowship "offers freedom and flexibility for students," Muller-Parker added.

"It gives them freedom to pursue research that is interesting to them," she said.

"Twenty-four is a good number," Franke said. "We have the talent on this campus to have a lot more [fellows]. The graduate school is honored to be partnered with NSF and we're hoping the program will continue."

Franke said that more students at this university could be qualified to win the fellowship, they just need to apply to the program.