2018-19 Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award

Sarah E. Cleary, PhD, Chemistry Graduate Program

Sarah was born and raised in the Burlington area, and was interested in science from a young age.  During her undergraduate studies at Bates College, she found her love for organic chemistry and completed her senior thesis on the topic.  Between undergrad and graduate school, she had an internship with Seventh Generation that gave her hands-on experience formulating household cleaning products using nontoxic ingredients made from renewable sources.  This ability to combine chemistry with sustainability influenced her goals for graduate school and beyond.

Sarah was an organic chemistry PhD student, and her work in Professor Matthias Brewer’s group focused on improving the efficiency and economy of organic chemical reactions. Specifically, Sarah helped to discover and develop a new method that forges carbon-carbon bonds in a way that minimizes energy and material input, as well as waste.  Since carbon-based molecules are present in all aspects of life, academia and industry regard it as essential to discover ways to produce these molecules in cheaper and cleaner ways.

Sarah is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford where she works with a renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable catalyst that promotes common organic chemistry reactions.  Her main objective is to bring this new technology up to an industrial scale, thus providing a green alternative to current chemical industry processes.

The Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award recognizes exceptional work on behalf of a doctoral student, as demonstrated by their dissertation, including significant contributions to their field of study.

2018-19 Outstanding Master's Thesis Award

Lukas Adamowicz, Mechanical Engineering Graduate Program

Lukas Adamowicz grew up in Burlington, VT, and graduated from UVM in 2017 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, after which he continued on for his MS in Mechanical Engineering, focusing on human biomechanics research. During his MS, Lukas helped Dr. Ryan McGinnis get his lab up and running and started several of the lab's research projects, which will provide data for many graduate and undergraduate students in novel works. Lukas has been an author on several conference papers, and given invited lectures in classes. He also has several papers in the process of being submitted. After receiving his MSME, Lukas will be working for the summer for Pfizer, developing novel methods for quantifying transitions in order to better quantify mobility and allow better informed decisions by health care through access to quantitative data.

Working under Dr. McGinnis, Lukas explored novel ways of utilizing quarter-sized inertial measurement units to estimate the angles of the hip joints, which allow for easier, cheaper, and faster diagnosis of mobility impairments. These improvements would enable earlier detection and intervention, improving treatment and prognosis for these debilitating diseases. The algorithms and data will also be shared as open-source, allowing others to utilize the data and algorithms developed easily for future work.

The Outstanding Master's Thesis Award recognizes exceptional work on behalf of a Master’s student, as demonstrated by their thesis, including significant contributions to their field of study.

2018 – 2019 Graduate Teaching Assistants of the Year

Lauren Ash, Biology Graduate Program
Laboratory Instruction Category

Lauren was raised in Tampa, FL and grew interested in the field of ecology through an introductory biology class in her sophomore year at the University of Florida.  While obtaining a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, she had the opportunity to travel to and conduct research in Belize and Africa. She also taught for the first time as an undergraduate teaching assistant for a Wildlife Management class. After graduating, she attended University College London and received a Master of Research degree in Biodiversity, Evolution, and Conservation.

Lauren realized her love of teaching during her first hands-on teaching experience as a Vermont State Park interpreter, before starting her Ph.D. program in the University of Vermont Biology department. At Silver Lake State Park, she was able to develop and deliver educational nature programs to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Lauren is now a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Nicholas Gotelli’s lab and has served as a teaching assistant for four years in three different Biology courses for both undergraduate and graduate students. Her research integrates field, computational, and genetic approaches to answer questions on the distribution, ecological drivers, and host-pathogen dynamics of ranavirus, the emerging infectious disease in amphibian communities. Through this research, she has had the opportunity to mentor 12 undergraduate students. Besides research and teaching, Lauren loves to travel, pet dogs, paint, and make and eat desserts.

Cassie van Stolk-Cooke, Clinical Psychology Graduate Program
Lecture Instruction Category

Cassie van Stolk-Cooke is a doctoral student in the Clinical Training Program of the Department of Psychological Science at UVM.  Cassie came to UVM from New York City, where she attended college and conducted research on technology-based interventions for substance use problems.
At UVM, Cassie has focused her energies on seeing patients at Vermont Psychological Services, the Department’s community outpatient clinic, pursuing a research interest in the social support providers of those suffering from mental illness, and honing her teaching skills.  In the classroom, she has found a passion for helping her students to hone their critical thinking and writing skills in the context of psychological science. In her free time, Cassie enjoys dancing, music, and spending time with her dog, Badger.

2018-2019 Dr. Roberto Fabri Fialho Research Award

Emily Mikucki

Emily Mikucki, Biology Graduate Program

The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2018-2019 Dr. Roberto Fabri Fialho Research Award is Emily Mikucki, a doctoral candidate in the Biology Program.

Emily Mikucki is from the Hudson Valley of New York where a childhood obsession with insects transformed into a lifelong passion for butterflies and their conservation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Spanish from Bennington College where she first started researching the ecological physiology of butterflies, or how climate change affects a butterfly’s ability to metamorphose. In college, her passion for education and research took her all over the world from Peru and Ecuador, to Costa Rica and Tanzania. After graduating, she interned as a conservation educator at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, and as a teaching and research assistant at the School for Field Studies Center for Sustainability in Costa Rica. Her love of Vermont, teaching, and butterflies brought her back to UVM to pursue a PhD in Biology.

She is currently a third year PhD candidate in the Biology Department working with Dr. Brent Lockwood and Dr. Alison Brody. Her research focuses on the physiological consequences of winter warming on overwintering butterflies. Through her research, Emily hopes to better understand how butterflies and other insects adapt to changes in their environment which can inform targeted conservation actions. In addition to her research, she loves teaching biology lab courses at UVM and mentoring undergraduate research students. When not in the lab or classroom, she enjoys cooking, baking, knitting, and hiking.

The Fialho Research Award is given annually to a University of Vermont doctoral student in support of their research in areas related to ecology, evolution, population genetics, or animal behavior. The funds are awarded in memory of Roberto Fabri Fialho, Ph.D., Biology.

2018-19 Thomas J. Votta Scholarship

Joseph Ament, Gund Graduate Fellow, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources

The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2018-2019 Thomas J. Votta Scholarship is Joe Ament, a Gund Graduate Fellow and PhD student in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Joe Ament graduated from The Ross School of Business at The University of Michigan, focusing on economics and finance. After spending seven years in corporate strategy in both the for- and non-profit sectors, he spent three years writing about the ecological and economic problems we now face.

In the Rubenstein School, Joe’s research examines monetary theory in the context of socioecological stability. His interests lie in how monetary systems affect social justice and environmental degradation and how a socioecologically-resilient society will use money and distribute wealth. Outside of reading and writing, Joe loves to ski, bike, paint, toss bocce, and listen to Stevie Wonder.

The Thomas J. Votta Memorial Fund is established by the friends and family of Tom Votta to provide annual scholarship assistance a UVM graduate student in the Grossman School of Business, College of Engineering and Mathematics, or Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources who, like Tom, wishes to make a difference in solving environmental problems and using environmental best practices to meet this goal. For more information on the student awards offered through the Graduate College and to read about previous awardees, please visit our website here.

2018-19 Rodney L. Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award

Megan Perkins, Neuroscience Graduate Program

The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2018-2019 Rodney L. Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award is Megan Perkins, a doctoral candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program.

Megan was raised in Georgetown, Texas. She began her higher educational career with initial interests in psychology, yet quickly realized that she was also fascinated by the biology of the nervous system, and the interactions between biology, psychology and the environment that produce one’s emotions and behaviors.  She received her B.S. in psychology from Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, taking many additional biology and life science courses.

Currently, Megan is studying as a doctoral student in Dr. Margaret Vizzard’s neurourology lab, where she is examining a novel population of bladder cells, known as interstitial cells. Megan uses multiple biochemical approaches to elucidate the potential role of interstitial cells in the sensitization of afferent nerves in bladder disorders, specifically interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome.

Megan plans to use the Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award for professional and career development activities that will enhance her skills and opportunities as a scientist. After graduation, she plans to pursue a post-doctoral fellowship. Additionally, Megan has a passion for science communication and advocacy. She hopes to be actively and professionally involved in scientific communication and outreach in the future. When Megan is not in the lab, you can find her in the air, pursuing her non-research related passions - dancing & performing circus stunts on her aerial silks.

2018-19 Clean Energy Fund Innovation Research Project Proposals

Lindsay Barbieri, Graduate Fellow, Gund Institute for Environment
Natural Resources PhD Program, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources

Lindsay Barbieri is a PhD student at the University of Vermont working at the interface of agriculture, environment, and technology to deepen our understanding of climate change adaptation and mitigation within agroecosystems. She explores the use of information technologies to enable and support more sustainable production practices, while critically assessing their role in decision-making. Barbieri collaborates with several interdisciplinary and international working groups to address broader information technology challenges and opportunities in social-ecological systems research, resource governance, and environmental justice. Prior to becoming a PhD student at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and a Graduate Fellow at the Gund Institute in 2014, Barbieri was a professional circus artist, worked on a small dairy farm, and earned her BA at Hampshire College by analyzing satellite images of landscapes on Mars for geomorphological signatures of climate change.

This project endeavors to support clean energy decision-making in agricultural production systems by advancing the development and sharing of sensor technologies and methods for measuring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using small unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The transformation of cow manure into an energy source is a promising way to prevent runoff and subsequent nutrient pollution, especially for dairy-heavy states such as Vermont. Indeed, “Cow Power” Renewable Energy Credits from biodigesters across the state are already a part of the University of Vermont's diversified portfolio of clean energy sources in support of the university's Climate Action Plan. Yet many knowledge and action gaps remain, including a deeper understanding of GHG emissions accounting within these production systems. This project will provide the opportunity to comprehensively consider biogas production practices within agricultural systems and improve GHG emissions measurement, all while assessing the role of information technologies in support of 'sustainable' decision-making in Vermont. This work will be carried out in collaboration with key stakeholders and established biogas and UAS working groups at the University of Vermont, across the state, and beyond.

Alex Neidermeier
Natural Resources Master’s Program, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources

Alex grew up near Asheville, North Carolina, and later graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies from UNC-Asheville.  While serving in the Peace Corps in Mali and Burkina Faso, she gained an immense appreciation for trees in her new semi-arid homes, planting hundreds of economically valuable moringa, baobab, and acacia trees with a local women’s organization.  She became interested in the connections between forests and climate change while working as the SilvaCarbon Africa program manager for the US Forest Service International Programs, supporting countries in the implementation of their climate change mitigation strategies.  Her interest in forest health brought her to Dr. Kimberly Wallin’s lab, where she has been researching a biological control for the exotic invasive insect, the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA).

The grant from the Clean Energy Fund will be used to support her research investigating the risks and opportunities for using diseased wood in the wood pellet industry.  The research focuses on the northeastern US, an area likely to be at high-risk for forest pests in a changing climate and highly motivated in its use of renewable energies.

Robin Rice
Materials Science Master’s Program, University of Vermont Graduate College

Robin Rice is a Master’s Student in the Materials Science department at UVM. Robin came to Burlington from Takoma Park, MD to complete his BS in Environmental Science where he developed a passion for Battery Electrochemistry and Organic Photovoltaics during his work for Dr. Adam Whalley and Dr. Matthew White. Having an abundance of interests throughout high school and college, Robin realized his true passion lay in understanding how processes and properties at the smallest level enact tangible consequences in the observable world, such as how charge carrying molecules in photosynthesis may be isolated and used as electrolytes in an organic flow battery, which then has “growable” organic components. See Rhubarb Battery at Harvard.

His current work includes the organic synthesis and physical characterization of Small-Molecule Organic Photovoltaics, which reduce photovoltaic cost, as well as the environmental impact of gathering their required materials. Organic Photovoltaics also allow flexible, lighter-weight photovoltaic design optimal for flexible solar arrays. These are especially relevant in space applications where volume and mass come at a premium. See ROSA demonstrated on the ISS in 2017.

Robin hopes to continue working in the renewable field once he graduates to push the boundaries of photovoltaic and battery storage research. When he isn’t working on his research, Robin is busy cooking, building bicycles, and building an electric moped to replace ~80% of the trips he takes in his car to reduce his carbon footprint. Robin has also found a passion for teaching in his first semester as a TA and hopes to continue spreading an appreciation for Physics throughout his degree.

Past Student Awards Recipients

Past Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award Recipients:

    Dissertation Category
    2018 - Rajiv Jumani, Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences
    2017 - Tianxin Miao, Bioengineering

    Thesis Category
    2017 - Social Sciences/Humanities - Caitlin Morgan, Food Systems
    2017 - STEM/Health Discipline - Alison Denn, Geology

Rodney L. Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award Recipients:

   2016 - Estelle Spear, Neuroscience
   2017 - Riley St. Clair, Neuroscience

Past Graduate Teaching Assistant Award Recipients:

    2017 - Primary Instruction - Virginia Peisch, Clinical Developmental Psychology Program
​    2017 - Laboratory Instruction - Emily Mikucki, Biology Graduate Program
    2016 - Lecture Instruction - Abigail Ross, Complex Systems and Data Science
​    2016 - Laboratory Instruction - Nicholas D’Alberto, Neuroscience Graduate Program
​    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:

    2018 - Lauren Ash, Biology
    2017 - Allison Hrycik, Biology
    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:

    2018 - Bonnie Reese, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources   
    2017 - Jack Reed, College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences   
    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