Campus News

Ten UGA students, alumni awarded NSF fellowships

Athens, Ga. – Ten University of Georgia students and alumni received graduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation to conduct research while working on their master’s and doctoral degrees. The awards provide students with up to $126,000 during a five-year period to conduct research in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Eleven students and alumni also received honorable mentions.

This year’s Fellows include:

Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Cameron Brown, of Savannah, Ga., earned a bachelor of science in chemistry from UGA. He is now a doctoral candidate at Duke University, where he is working in the emerging field of mechanochemistry. Brown’s research looks to use nanotechnology and chemical science to develop materials that strengthen under stress.

With an undergraduate degree in psychology from UGA, Kao-Wie Chua is now in his second year of the doctoral program in cognition and cognitive neuroscience at Vanderbilt University. The Johnson City, Tenn. native studies how people recognize and remember faces. His work has applications for the treatment of autism and other disorders.

Caitlin Elizabeth Conn, of Port Royal, Penn., earned a bachelor of science in biology at Penn State. While there, she co-authored a paper in a refereed journal that described a new skink species found living in the Caribbean. Now pursuing a doctoral degree in genetics at UGA, she studies how parasitic plants perceive their proximity to a host. Her research may be useful in combatting plants that attack various crop species around the world.

Chelsea Cunard, of Warren, R.I., earned her bachelor’s degree in ecology at the University of New Hampshire. Now working in UGA’s department of plant biology, she is investigating if and how invasive plants, particularly Japanese stiltgrass, gradually integrate with native species. The research could point to strategies to protect ecosystems threatened by invasive species.

Caitlin Ishibashi, of Camarillo, Calif., earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Pepperdine University. At UGA she studies sunflower leaf trait evolution and plans to use genetics and physiology to discover potential tradeoffs in plant performance-in particular, why some plants are slow growing and long-lived, while others are fast-growing but short-lived.

Uma Jyothi Nagendra, of New Orleans, La., double-majored in biology and comparative literature at Swarthmore College. She is now pursuing a doctoral degree at UGA in plant biology. A UGA Presidential Graduate Fellow, she is studying how tornadoes affect soil organisms in Southern Appalachian forests. Her research will help land managers better understand the potential long-term effects of increased occurrences of tornadoes and other types of severe storms.

Odum School of Ecology

Before coming to UGA, Daniel Joseph Becker, of West Chester, Penn., earned a bachelor of art in anthropology at Bard College and worked at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and the New York Academy of Sciences. At UGA he is examining how human activities such as farming and road construction in the Peruvian Amazon region affect the transmission of the rabies virus in vampire bats.

Doug Booher, of Dalton, Ga., earned a bachelor’s degree in ecology at UGA and is now pursuing a doctorate at the University of California Los Angeles. Booher worked for 12 years running a company that salvaged architectural wood material for re-use, and implemented an outreach program for children through the Georgia Museum of Natural History. He is studying the ecology of North American dacetine ants.

Robert Daniel Harris, of the Drumkeerin area in County Leitrim, Ireland, majored in geology at the National University of Ireland Galway. At UGA he is looking at interactions between oysters and Spartina marsh grass, two species that benefit the environment through improving water quality and stabilizing shorelines. His research will help scientists predict future habitat changes engineered by these species, and aid in restoration efforts in coastal Georgia and neighboring states.

Carly Phillips, of Columbus, Ohio, earned a bachelor of science in biology at Occidental College. As a doctoral candidate at UGA, she studies the effects of shrub expansion across arctic tundra in order to learn how the interplay between plants and soil microbes affect the storage or release of carbon. Her research could help the scientific community better gauge the impact of climate change.

Honorable Mention

Honorable mention recipients do not get a stipend, but may conduct research for a full year using the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, the world’s largest connected group of high-performance computers. Franklin College students awarded honorable mentions include: Donald Fischer and Melody Rhine, chemistry; Jonathan Hallemeier, anthropology; Arlana Henry, sociology; Karolina Heyduk, David Higgins and Laura Levin, plant biology; David Reynolds, biochemistry and molecular biology; and Kathleen Pieper, genetics.

Honorable mention students who earned bachelor degrees at UGA and are earning graduate degrees elsewhere are: Samuel Bryson, microbiology, Oregon State University; and Erin Giglio, evolutionary biology, University of Texas at Austin.