2020-2021 Graduate Teaching Assistants of the Year

Calum Buchanan, Mathematical Sciences Ph.D. Program
Lecture Instruction Category

Calum Buchanan is a second-year graduate student in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at UVM, pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics. Calum received his bachelor’s degree in 2017 at the same institution, with majors in Mathematics and English with a minor in French. As an undergraduate, Calum tutored and was a Teaching Assistant during the summers for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. It was there that he found a passion for teaching – in particular, for finding intuitive ways to teach mathematics. After graduation, Calum taught English language courses in two middle schools near Nantes, France.

In 2019, Calum returned to UVM to study combinatorial graph theory under the advising of Dr. Puck Rombach. Both as a researcher and as a teacher, Calum has the goal of making mathematics accessible to a wider audience. He hopes to simplify both problems and their explanations for his students and to help them develop the intuition needed to tackle new problems on their own. Working with undergraduates has been a welcome change, and he looks forward to continuing to hone his teaching skills at UVM.

Wilson Captein, Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program
Laboratory Instruction Category

Wilson Captein is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Psychological Science’s Clinical Psychology program. Originally born and raised in Portland, OR, he had a brief sojourn in Ohio to complete his undergraduate degree before moving to Vermont to attend UVM in 2018.

Since starting at UVM, Wilson has focused on developing his clinical skills, providing therapy to clients under supervision as a predoctoral clinician at Vermont Psychological Services while also developing his research and teaching skills through collaborations both within and outside UVM. His research and clinical work both focus on the application of Minority Stress Theory to conceptualizing and treating mental health concerns among sexual minority individuals. As a GTA within the Department of Psychological Science, he strives to encourage a destigmatizing and humanizing approach to learning about how biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors combine to inform our conceptualizations of mental health diagnoses. He enjoys gardening and baking and is looking forward to cultivating an edible flower garden over the summer.

2020-2021 Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award

Sam Kriegman, Ph.D., G’20, Computer Science
Basic and Applied Sciences Category

Sam began his undergraduate studies at Ohio University in the fine arts. But, his explorations in digital mediums sparked a fascination with computers, which ultimately led to a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics, and later, a job as an actuary for an insurance company. It was there that he developed an interest in predictive modeling that could not be satisfied by industry. So, Sam left his job and enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Vermont.

In 2015, Sam was awarded NASA EPSCoR funding to determine how satellite imagery could be used to predict the amount of water contained within snowfall in high mountain regions. A thesis based on this research earned Sam a master’s degree in statistics. After that, Sam moved on to UVM’s Ph.D. program in computer science, where he would use similar techniques to design soft robots.

Over the next four years, with funding from DARPA and the National Science Foundation, Sam developed deformable robots that could continuously morph to meet new tasks and recover from injury. In collaboration with biologists, Sam demonstrated how an AI system could generate novel organisms, composed of Xenopus cells, which are popularly referred to as Xenobots. For this work, Sam and his colleagues received the 2020 Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy of Sciences.

Sam is currently a Postdoctoral Associate at UVM, where he is creating new kinds of robots to perform useful work, accelerate scientific discoveries, and, sometimes, just for fun.

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.

Loren Bowley Dow, Ed.D., G’20, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Program
Social Sciences, Humanities, and Creative Arts Category

Loren, born and raised in Maine, is an eighth generation Mainer and was the first in her immediate family to attend college. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education from the University of Maine. She returned home to teach 7th grade Language Arts and became formally involved with the Mitchell Institute alumni council. The Mitchell Institute, which provided Loren with financial resources to attend college, motivated her to pursue further education and support the higher education ambitions of Maine students from underserved populations. While teaching and coaching, Loren earned her master’s degree in Education from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Upon moving to Vermont, Loren accepted a position teaching high school English, and eventually transitioned to an academic services role in the Athletic Department at the University of Vermont where she currently advises student-athletes. Having the opportunity to continue her graduate studies led her to the Educational Leadership Educational Leadership and Policy Studies doctoral program. Once again, her interest in how colleges can better serve and retain students from first-generation backgrounds remained at the center of her work, both professionally and personally.

Through the support of her advisor, Dr. Jason Garvey, Loren reconnected with the Mitchell Institute and designed her research to examine the experiences of Mitchell Scholars who were selected as Promise Scholars. A grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation enabled the Mitchell Institute to provide additional social, personal, and financial resources to Promise Scholars – students who overcame great adversity in their family lives to attend college. Despite the many challenges facing this cohort of scholars, Loren’s work revealed that first-generation and low-income college students do succeed when social support and leadership development are combined with financial assistance. As part of her study, Loren spent two nights white water rafting on the Penobscot River with the incoming class of Promise Scholars. She hopes her work will lead to further initiatives to support underrepresented students in higher education.

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.

2020-2021 Outstanding Master's Thesis Award

Jo Martin, M.S., G’20
Mathematics Master’s Program

Jo Martin grew up in the Midwest and graduated from Oberlin College in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in Geology.  After college she worked with the IS-GEO research coordination network where she researched interdisciplinary education at the intersection of earth and data science.  While passionate about earth science questions, Jo discovered a love of pure math, thanks to some excellent professors, and came to UVM in 2018 to pursue a master's degree in mathematics.

At UVM Jo worked as a teaching assistant in the Geology Department and began research in graph theory with Professor Puck Rombach.  In her master's research she looked at how global graph properties influence a new graph property, the guessing number, which is related to information flow through networks, and is a very fun guessing game.  Jo is currently living and working in Burlington and is excited about the prospect of having continued fun with math for the rest of her life.

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.

2020-2021 Thomas J. Votta Scholarship

Elizabeth Duffy, Graduate Research Assistant for the Transportation Research Center, College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences

The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2020-2021 Thomas J. Votta Scholarship is Elizabeth Duffy, a Graduate Research Assistant for the Transportation Research Center in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.

Since she was 8 years old, Elizabeth Duffy’s been riding a bicycle built for two—herself and the environment. Having traveled all over Europe on bike trips from second grade through high school in Jackson, New Hampshire, she has seen firsthand the power of low-impact transportation. Now, Elizbeth is merging her two-wheeling ways with UVM undergraduate environmental coursework to become a Graduate Research Assistant for the Transportation Research Center at UVM. Her work on greenhouse gas emissions from long-distance travel, conducted with Dr. Lisa Aultman Hall, has earned her a Thomas Votta Scholarship, among other rewards and insights.

“The most surprising thing I have learned about transportation and the environment is how little we know of our impact,” she says. “There are high-levels of uncertainty in findings due to the many factors involved with estimating transportation emissions. I look forward to the changes we will make in our transportation system that will allow our use of travel modes too differ and our estimation of emissions to have more certainty.”

Elizabeth hopes to become a professional engineer focusing on sustainability and addressing climate change. She spent 10 years designing arrangments in a flower shop, and her favorite flower is the peony.

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.

2020-2021 Dr. Roberto Fabri Fialho Research Award

Erika Bueno, Plant and Soil Science Graduate Program

The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2020-2021 Dr. Roberto Fabri Fialho Research Award is Erika Bueno, a doctoral candidate in the Plant and Soil Science Program.

Erika is a PhD candidate at the University of Vermont working under the guidance of Dr. Yolanda Chen.  As a member of Dr. Chen's research group, Erika combines empirical and theoretical approaches in evolutionary biology to study the molecular drivers of stress tolerance in the Colorado potato beetle (CPB). By using a multi-level approach that integrates phenotypic, transcriptomic, and epigenomic tools, she is characterizing how insecticide resistance influences cross-tolerance to subsequent heat stress in CPB. Her interests in evolutionary biology are driven by her natural curiosity for understanding how insects thrive under challenging environments associated with anthropogenic change. Her long-term goal is to bridge together evolutionary and genomic approaches to understand the mechanisms underlying rapid evolution and to inform management strategies for economically important agricultural pests.

Erika is originally from Lima, Peru, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received a B.S. in Biology and a M.S. in Ecology and Evolution from San Francisco State University (SFSU). Erika is a founding member and current President of the first SACNAS (Society for the Advancement for Native Americans and Chicanos in STEM) Chapter at UVM. She is also a recipient of the prestigious HHMI Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study. In her spare time (pre-COVID), Erika enjoys spending time with friends, water coloring, dancing, and binge-watching Netflix shows.

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.

2020-2021 Rodney L. Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award

Patrick Mullen, Neuroscience Graduate Program

The University of Vermont Graduate College is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2020-2021 Rodney L. Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award is Patrick Mullen, a doctoral student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program.

Pat grew up in Potsdam NY and earned a BS in neuroscience from St. Lawrence University, where he worked on a research project investigating a novel treatment for multiple sclerosis. Following graduation, he worked as a research assistant at Boston University Medical School studying the role of amyloid precursor protein phosphorylation in Alzheimer’s disease.
To continue studying diseases of the nervous system, Pat joined the Neuroscience Graduate Program at UVM and began thesis work in the labs of Chris Francklyn and Alicia Ebert, where he uses cellular and organismal models to better understand the processes that link specific gene mutations to neurological diseases such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and developmental encephalopathies.

While at UVM, Pat also discovered his passion for teaching. He has taught undergraduate, physical therapy, and medical students at UVM and is currently pursuing teaching positions. Apart from science, Pat spends his time with his fiancée Aliza, loving their cats Didier and Chai, and taking in the world-class food, beer, and natural beauty that Vermont has to offer.

Dr. Rodney L. Parsons joined UVM as Assistant Professor of Physiology in 1967. In 1979, he became chair of the then Department of Anatomy and re-purposed it to establish one of the first Anatomy and Neurobiology departments in the country. He was the founding and only chair of that department, which merged with the Department of Neurology in 2012 to become the Department of Neurological Sciences, integrating basic and clinical science under one department. The goal of the Parsons Award is to support outstanding graduate students who demonstrate excellence in both neuroscience research and teaching in any broadly defined anatomical science, the disciplines which Dr. Parsons played a key role in the growth and evolution of at UVM.

2019-2020 Clean Energy Fund Innovation Research Project Proposal

Libin Liang, Materials Science Graduate Program

Libin Liang, a student in the Materials Science Graduate Program, was awarded funding through the Clean Energy Fund for a project proposal supporting students’ visions of the University of Vermont running on clean, locally produced renewable energy.

Libin Liang received his master’s degree in China, where he became interested in researching nano material and the relationship between material structure and property. After coming to the United States in 2015, he joined Madalina Furis’ research group and was pleased to find that they were also conducting fundamental research about the material structure and property for semiconductor application. Liang joined the research group his second semester, where he learned experimental techniques such as open-space photoluminescence setup, pen-writing deposition method and basic optical alignment knowledge. When he moved to the new STEM complex, Discovery Hall, Liang learned to rebuild all of the experiment setups on optical bench. After this experience, Liang felt confident to carry out his own research and began to study the electronic states within small molecule ordered thin film.

Liang studies the electronic states orientation and the effect of applying strain on them within small molecule ordered thin film, where strain-enhanced photoluminescence is observed at room temperature. With the help of the Clean Energy Fund, it will be possible for Liang’s group to apply a similar technique under low temperature, and to explore the enhancement mechanism, which would benefit the OLED development. The priority for the grant would be building the novel cryostat stat with build-in stretching unit. After this, he would spend most of his time running low temperature experiments with liquid Helium. If the results are positive, Liang plans to expand his range of projects, while studying derivatives of the small molecule.

Past Student Awards Recipients

Past Clean Energy Fund Innovation Research Project Proposals:

    2018 - Lindsay Barbieri, Natural Resources; Alex Neidermeier, Natural Resources; Robin Rice, Materials Science

Past Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award Recipients:

    Dissertation Category
    2020 - Elias M. Klemperer, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program
    2019 - Sarah E. Cleary, Chemistry Graduate Program
    2018 - Rajiv Jumani, Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences
    2017 - Tianxin Miao, Bioengineering

    Thesis Category
    2020 - Mauricio Pereira, Mechanical Engineering Master’s Program
    2019 - Lukas Adamowicz, Mechanical Engineering Graduate Program
    2017 - Social Sciences/Humanities - Caitlin Morgan, Food Systems
    2017 - STEM/Health Discipline - Alison Denn, Geology

Past Rodney L. Parsons Anatomy and Neurobiology Award Recipients:

   2019 - Katharine Beca, Neuroscience
   2018 - Megan Perkins, Neuroscience
   2017 - Riley St. Clair, Neuroscience
   2016 - Estelle Spear, Neuroscience

Past Graduate Teaching Assistant Award Recipients:

    2019 - Laboratory Instruction - Bijay K C, M.S., Civil and Environmental Engineering Doctoral Program
    2019 - Lecture Instruction - Patrick Mullins, Mathematics Master’s Program
    2018 - Laboratory Instruction - Lauren Ash, Biology Graduate Program
    2018 - Primary Instruction - Cassie van Stolk-Cooke, Clinical Psychology Graduate Program
    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:

    2020 - Raquel Asuncion Lima Cordon, Biology
    2019 - Emily Mikucki, Biology
    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:

    2020 - Taran Catania, Sustainable Innovation, Grossman School of Business
    2020 - Kristin Raub, Gund Graduate Fellow, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources
    2019 - Joseph Ament, Gund Graduate Fellow, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources
    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