The Graduate College hosts an annual competition for Outstanding Master's Thesis Awards (in both social sciences/humanities and STEM/health disciplines) and an Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award. We are pleased to announce the winners for Spring, 2017.
2017 Thesis and Dissertations of the Year
Caitlin Morgan, PhD Student of Food Systems & Economics for the Anthropocene
Social Sciences/Humanities Winner
Caitlin grew up in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom before moving west for college at UC Berkeley. After assorted jobs writing, teaching, and cooking in northern California, she returned to the Green Mountain State for a Master's degree in Food Systems. Caitlin continues her Food Systems work in a doctorate that emphasizes Ecological Economics, when she isn't outside enjoying the good life in Burlington.
Alison Denn, M.S. student in the Geology Graduate Program
STEM/Health Discipline Winner
Denn is a Massachusetts native with a B.A. in Earth Science and Geography from Vassar College. After Vassar, Alison took two years off from academia. During this time, she became an assistant farm manager at a small vegetable CSA, the lone female laborer at a construction company, and a certified personal trainer and strength coach.
In 2014 Alison joined the University of Vermont Cosmogenic Nuclide lab group under the guidance of Professor Paul Bierman. She uses the relative prevalence of rare isotopes 10Be and 26Al in quartz minerals to age date rocks, sediments, and soils south of the Last Glacial Maximum boundary in Pennsylvania. Her research investigates how landscapes develop over thousands of years, and in particular, it delves into the influence of climate change on erosion rates. Alison’s work provides the first age constraints on an Appalachian boulder field, suggesting that these common, enigmatic landforms are much older than previously thought.
Tianxin Miao, PhD in Bioengineering
Doctoral Dissertation of the Year
Dr.Tianxin Miao received her PhD degree in bioengineering program from UVM in 2016 under the supervision of Dr. Rachael A. Oldinski. Before joining UVM, she completed undergraduate study in Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. In the last year of her undergraduate study, she was visiting Monash University (Melbourne, Australia) doing genetics research and was awarded Endeavor Cheung Kong Fellowship from Victoria State Government of Australia . She is now a postdoctoral research fellow at Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Miao has published 6 journal articles with one under review (citations over 80). In addition, she has given over 20 conference presentations. Dr. Miao’s primary research area is biomaterials for drug delivery and tissue engineering, with applications ranging from cancer, orthopedics and autoimmune diseases.
Honorable mentions are made this year for Ryan Gallagher of the Applied Mathematics program and Rachel Schattman of the Plant and Soil Science program.
2016-17 Graduate Teaching Assistants of the Year
Nicholas D’Alberto, Neuroscience Graduate Program
The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the 2016-17 GTA of the Year in Laboratory Instruction is Nicholas D’Alberto, a doctoral candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program.
Nicholas D’Alberto is originally from Stillwater, NY and received his B.S. in Psychology from Hobart College in 2013. Nick started the Neuroscience Graduate Program at UVM in the summer of 2013, and is currently a PhD candidate in the NERVE lab of Dr. Hugh Garavan. Using the large-scale neuroimaging database, IMAGEN, the NERVE lab examines how the brain’s structure and function in adolescence is related to psychopathology, alcohol and substance use, developmental disorders, and more. Nick’s primary research focus is on the neurodevelopment of inhibitory control in adolescence. Nick also conducts research on the UVM site of the “ABCD Study”, which is a 10-year longitudinal neuroimaging study of 10,000 children and adolescents across the United States.
During his time as a graduate student, Nick has been a graduate teaching assistant for Medical Neural Sciences, Physical Therapy Neuroscience, Physical Therapy Gross Anatomy, and Undergraduate Advanced Cognitive Neuroscience. Nick has enjoyed his involvement with these courses, teaching medical and physical therapy students, and working with the LCOM faculty. Nick’s long-term goal is to become a medical science educator.
Abigail Ross, Complex Systems and Data Science
The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the 2016-17 GTA of the Year in Lecture Instruction is Abigail Ross, a Master’s student in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.
Abigail Ross grew up in Gilford, NH, and has loved math, skiing, and hiking for as long as she can remember. Ross attended St. Lawrence University where she graduated in 2015 with a B.S. in Mathematics and a minor in French. She joined the University of Vermont Mathematics Department in the fall of 2015, and began coursework for her Master’s Degree. Ross is conducting her research in the Vermont Complex Systems Center, under the guidance of Chris Danforth and Peter Dodds. Her research has focused on quantifying gendered and biased language in media coverage, which she has found to be an eye-opening and informative way of combining her interests in math and social justice.
When Ross graduates in May 2017 she plans to join the faculty at Northfield Mount Hermon School, a private boarding school in Northfield, MA where she will teach calculus, statistics, and multivariable calculus.
Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) contribute significantly to UVM's teaching mission, carrying important and often complex teaching responsibilities. They merit recognition for their dedication and for the important contributions they make to the teaching of undergraduate students at UVM. The Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year Award recognizes annually the accomplishments of GTAs who have demonstrated unusual excellence and creativity in their teaching and commitment to student learning. Beginning in 2013, two awards are given each year, one for GTAs who have served as the primary instructor in a lecture based course, one for teaching assistants who have served as laboratory instructors. While only two GTAs are chosen to receive the Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year Award, the department and program nominees for the award are also recognized and honored.
2017 Roberto Fabri Fialho Award
Allison Hrycik, College of Arts and Sciences
The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2017 Roberto Fabri Fialho award is Allison Hrycik, a doctoral student in the Biology program.
Allison grew up in Colden, NY, a small town outside of Buffalo. She discovered her love for nature by exploring the woods behind her house with her brother and sister, which led her to pursue a B.S. in Natural Resources at Cornell University. During her undergraduate studies, Allison spent three summers at the Cornell Biological Station and was involved in research on Lake Champlain and several small lakes in the Adirondacks, further solidifying her interest in ecological research and especially aquatic ecology.
After a brief hiatus from ecology in which she worked in as a research technician in a floriculture lab, Allison went to Purdue University for her M.S. Her master’s research dealt with feeding and movement patterns of yellow perch in Lake Erie. Allison is now pursuing her PhD in Jason Stockwell’s lab at UVM in the Biology Department. She studies how changes in winter severity associated with climate change affect phytoplankton communities, which has implications for the intensity of harmful algal blooms that we may see in the future. Allison’s research takes place both locally (Shelburne Pond and Lake Champlain) and on a global scale through collaborative lake monitoring projects.
2017 Thomas J. Votta Scholarship
Jack Reed, College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences
The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the 2017 Thomas J. Votta Scholarship recipient is Jack Reed, a M.S. student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Graduate Program.
Reed was born in Saranac Lake, New York. He lived in a small town (although Saranac Lake is a small town in itself) on the outskirts of Saranac Lake, called Rainbow Lake. It was in this wooded area, surrounded by nature and all its mysteries, that a deep appreciation for the environment and its preservation was sparked.
Over time this evolved into a general appreciation for science, and in 2015 Reed received his B.A. in Physics with minors in Chemistry and Mathematics. He also took many electives related to civil engineering, and knew he wanted to pursue some type of engineering-related career. This prompted him to apply to graduate schools, with his first choice being the University of Vermont due to its reputation and constant stride towards a cleaner environment.
Reed joined the University of Vermont Transportation Research Center in August of 2015, where he began working under Dr. Britt A. Holmén. With her guidance, he has been investigating the effects of oxidized biodiesel fuel on particulate emissions, in hopes to understand any adverse changes that it may have in regards to human health. With a thesis defense in the near future, Reed is working hard experimenting to collect data. Upon completing his studies here at the University of Vermont, he wants to take his passion for improving air quality and alternative transportation fuel and continue to investigate alternatives to fossil fuels combustion.
The funds Reed received from the Thomas J. Votta scholarship will be partially applied to completing his degree at UVM, with the rest going towards a personal research computer with helpful analysis software that can be applied to his research for many years to come.
Reed’s hobbies include skateboarding, kayaking, hiking, and other various outdoor activities, as well as listening to music and trying new cuisine.
2016-17 Rodney L. Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award
Estelle Spear, Neuroscience Graduate Program
The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2016-17 Rodney L. Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award is Estelle Spear, a doctoral student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program.
Spear hails from Chardon, Ohio. It was as a middle school student in this rural city that Neuroscience sparked her interest, and throughout middle and high school, Spear competed statewide and nationally in Science Olympiad. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree from Allegheny College in the cellular tract of the Neuroscience program. When Spear decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, she chose UVM because of the facilities, faculty, and the atmosphere of the Burlington area.
Spear joined the lab of Dr. Gary Mawe in 2013, forming a campus-wide collaboration with neurologist Dr. Angela Applebee and immunologist Dr. Cory Teuscher. Together with her mentors, Spear uses clinical and experimental approaches to study the role of antibodies in gastrointestinal dysmotility associated with the neurodegenerative disease, multiple sclerosis. In 2016, she applied for, and was awarded, a pre-doctoral fellowship through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. With a thesis defense in sight, she is currently interviewing with laboratories in which to pursue her post-doctoral fellowship. Her career goals are to continue as an academic researcher, with an emphasis in educating students in both the classroom and the laboratory. The money provided through the 2016 Rodney L. Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award will help fund her attendance to several career development and teaching workshops to further her training in science education.
Spear is actively involved in neuroscience outreach, promoting STEM education at the elementary through high school levels, with a particular interest in women in science. Her other hobbies include sewing, crocheting, camping and mountain biking.
Past Student Awards Recipients
Past Graduate Teaching Assistant Award Recipients:
2015 - Nicole Lafko, Psychology
2014 - Alice Newman, Geology, and Vincent M. Mugisha, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
2013 - Benjamin Green, Animal Science, and Taylor Sacco, English
2012 - Amy Paysnick, Psychology
2011 - Julia McQuade , Psychology
2010 - Kirsten Stor, Mathematical Sciences
2009 - Victoria Marini, Psychology
2008 - Derek Strong, Anatomy and Neurobiology
2007 - Amanda Getsinger, Geology
2006 - Patricia Connolly, English
2005 - Krishnan Venkataraman, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
2004 - Stevenson Flemer, Jr., Chemistry
Past Roberto Fabri Fialho Awardees:
2016 - Susan Fawcett, Plant Biology
2015 - Samantha Alger, Biology
2014 - Michael Herrmann, Biology
2012 - Ashley Steere, Biochemistry
2010 - Chun Yang, Biology
2009 - Laura Bermingham, Biology
Past Thomas J. Votta Scholarship Recipients:
2016 - Courtney Hammond Wagner, Rubenstein School of Natural Resources
2015 - Samnuel Parker, Rubenstein School of Natural Resources
2014 - Chester Harvey, Rubenstein School of Natural Resources
2014 - Laura Yayac, Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning
2012 - Julie Nash, Rubenstein School of Natural Resources