Campus News

2020 Graduate Student Awards

(Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

James L. Carmon Scholarship Award

The James L. Carmon Award is presented to University of Georgia graduate students who have used computers in innovative ways. Named for the late James L. Carmon, a UGA faculty member for 36 years who helped make the university a leader in computing research and development, the award was established by the Control Data Corp. Each year, graduate students may be selected as Carmon Scholars or for Honorable Mention.

James L. Carmon Scholarship

Peter Pietrzyk, a doctoral candidate in the department of plant biology, applies his strong computational and quantitative background to improve drought-resistant crop breeding. How well a plant tolerates drought can depend on its capacity to develop a deep root structure for water acquisition. Pietrzyk is developing computational methods that will improve scientists’ ability to perform root measurements and identify how root structures and other phenotypic characteristics respond to stressors. His machine learning algorithms have generated reproducible results on root-hair measurement in common bean, corn and rice that were previously impossible to obtain using conventional, manual measurement methods. As human populations continue to expand rapidly, intense droughts are becoming longer and more frequent. With an unusual combination of transdisciplinary skills and creativity, Pietrzyk is developing technologies that will provide crucial data in the global effort to design new, drought-tolerant plant varieties and expand edible yields.

James L. Carmon Honorarium

Claire Teitelbaum, a doctoral candidate in the Odum School of Ecology, is developing a set of network models to understand movement patterns and pathogen transmission among nomadic white ibis populations in rapidly urbanizing Palm Beach County, Florida. White ibis, a waterbird, have a radically different diet and potentially higher exposure to pathogens such as Salmonella at urban sites in the county compared to natural sites. Teitelbaum uses GPS-derived field data to track when and where individuals travel across this habitat network. She will identify land cover attributes associated with the network’s different habitats and quantify individual birds’ movements, providing clues about how and when Salmonella could spread. Unlike many other existing disease models, Teitelbaum’s research includes a spatial component that will help quantify how urbanization affects disease dynamics across many different sites. She will provide a template for integrating movement data and disease modeling that could be applied to many emerging and zoonotic diseases in human-modified landscapes.

Robert C. Anderson Memorial Award

The Robert C. Anderson Memorial Award is given to recent Ph.D.s for outstanding research at the University or immediately after graduating. It is named for the late Robert C. Anderson, who served as UGA’s vice president for research and president of the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc.

2020 Recipients

Brittney S. Harris, an MFA graduate of the department of theatre and film studies, is a visiting assistant professor of theatre at Old Dominion University. Her research assesses the psychological effects of violence in the media on the millennial African American community and the performance of redemption. In her disciplines of solo performance, race performance and theatre for the oppressed, she examines the concept of “race” as a celebration of self, culture and artistic expression. She explores how performing arts can point out attitudes and societal mindsets and can be used to engage audiences and help them reflect on current conditions and potential for change. As a teacher, she is inventive and intuitive with a knowledge of and passion for the arts. She is noted for her organizational abilities, collaborative skills and core leadership values in expanding community service through the arts and her diversity outreach to young people of color.

Ania Majewska, who completed her Ph.D. in July 2019, is a postdoctoral research fellow at Emory University. She studies the evolution of pathogen virulence in response to imperfect vaccination. For her doctoral research, Majewska studied how the choices made by gardeners affect insect pollinators, which are declining globally due to habitat loss, pesticide use and other causes. Planting pollinator gardens to help reverse this decline is growing in popularity. Studies have shown these gardens can provide food and reproductive resources for pollinators, however some species can also be exposed to higher risks of predation, parasite infection and harmful chemicals. Majewska focused on the monarch butterfly and examined how garden habitats can influence monarch abundance, survival, reproduction and exposure to pathogens and other natural enemies. She integrated empirical field and lab work with mathematical modeling and meta-analysis, illuminating the potential benefits and unintended negative effects of providing pollinator habitats in human-modified landscapes.

Mauricio Seguel, who completed his Ph.D. in 2018 at the College of Veterinary Medicine, is a postdoctoral research associate in the Odum School of Ecology. He focused his doctoral research on a disease caused by a nematode parasite—the hookworm Uncinaria sp.—that kills fur seal pups in the Chilean region of Patagonia. Seguel conducted a field expedition to Patagonia’s Guafo Island, where the largest breeding colony of South American fur seals is located. He studied patterns of hookworm infection in South American fur seal pups over multiple years and linked this information to data on nutrition, immune reactivity, maternal attendance behavior and sea surface temperature. He also identified connections among warmer ocean temperatures, maternal behavior and pup mortality due to hookworm. By developing tools from ecology, immunology, physiology and statistics, Seguel illustrated the diverse mechanisms by which environmental change can negatively affect wildlife health and also revealed potential avenues for intervention.

Graduate Student Excellence-in-Research Awards

Graduate Student Excellence-in-Research Awards were initiated in 1999 to recognize the quality and significance of graduate-student scholarship, these awards may be given in five areas: Fine Arts, Humanities and Letters, Life Sciences, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Applied Studies.

Yingjia Chen, who graduated with a Ph.D. in toxicology in August 2019, is a postdoctoral associate in the department of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. She studies health impacts of the Western diet, which is characterized by high levels of glycation products from red meats, high-fat dairy and refined grains. Chen’s research shows that introducing food-derived proteins known as early glycation products (EGPs) into a mouse diet decreased the incidence of type 1 diabetes in mice and increased the survival rate of aged male mice with autoimmune prostatitis, strongly suggesting a potential application as “medical food.” She and her collaborators also showed that consumption of cellulose nanofibrils, which are used in food packaging and have potential use as non-caloric ingredients in foods, reduced the intestinal absorption of nutrients and resulted in negative health consequences.

Erinn Duprey, who graduated with a Ph.D. in human development and family science in May 2019, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide at University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. She studies the developmental antecedents of psychopathology among youth. Generating transdisciplinary ideas and integrating behavioral, socioemotional and psychophysiological data, she investigates impacts of childhood maltreatment on psychopathology, suicide risk and resilience in adolescence and young adulthood. Duprey’s research suggests that adolescent suicide-prevention efforts may benefit from identifying youth who exhibit comorbid internalizing (depressive and anxious) and externalizing (aggressive and disruptive) psychopathology. Her studies reveal that therapeutic interventions designed to bolster self-esteem and emotion regulation may reduce suicide risk for emerging adults with a history of childhood maltreatment. Duprey’s scholarly work has been published in top peer-reviewed journals, and she has presented more than a dozen first- and co-authored research projects at national conferences.

Kyle Mattingly, who graduated with a Ph.D. in geography in August 2019, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Rutgers University Institute of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. His work has already contributed to greater understanding of the Greenland ice sheet’s role within the climate system and its impact on global sea level. Awarded a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship, he has helped identify the role of “atmospheric rivers” on the rate of the ice sheet’s melting. Mattingly’s research revealed that unusually intense atmospheric rivers transporting massive amounts of water vapor to Greenland from lower latitudes are driving extreme melt events that reach the highest elevations of the ice sheet. Now he and his colleagues are examining the role of atmospheric rivers on sea ice melt in the Weddell Sea near Antarctica. He is co-author of nine peer-reviewed studies and recipient of multiple awards for his research presentations.

Lauren O’Connor-Korb, who graduated with an MFA in 2019, is a lecturer at the University of Georgia. Acknowledging that technology plays a growing role in our intimate relationships and serves as a repository for our most sensitive information, her work explores an evolving tendency to integrate ourselves (willingly and unwillingly) with machines and how this process changes the way we communicate with one another. She integrates robotics, speakers and sensors with other digital technologies, creating sculptures that resemble common, low-tech objects such as hat stands, exit signs and musical instruments. This method allows O’Connor-Korb to question entanglements with the technological “other” within the framework of shared cultural symbols. Borrowing from comedy and stage magic, she creates sculptural test cases that play out anxieties and fears about how technological creations might render humans obsolete. O’Connor-Korb was awarded the International Sculpture Center’s Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award for 2019.

Xinlian Zhang, who graduated with a Ph.D. in statistics in May 2019, is an assistant professor in residence in the Division of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at the University of California at San Diego. With a research breadth that is highly unusual among her peers, Xinlian and her partners are improving statistical models to address complex questions and making significant contributions to a range of research topics, including mainstream statistics, machine learning, epigenetics and genomics. She has collaborated on statistical analyses with a zebrafish retina development lab that could benefit drug discovery for retinal degeneration. She has also assisted her research colleagues by developing methods to improve mathematical analyses for rapid empirical feedback systems and to make better use of currently available computing power. A co-author of 12 peer-reviewed articles with several more submitted for publication, she has served as referee for many papers in a variety of statistics and bioinformatics journals.