Department announces 2019 student awards to support research experiences, education

The Department of Biochemistry is pleased to announce its 2019 undergraduate and graduate student departmental awards and fellowships. These awards and fellowships celebrate talented students in the department and are made possible by generous gifts to the department to fund graduate and undergraduate research.

“It’s always a pleasure to honor so many brilliant young people in this ceremony every year,” said department chair Brian Fox at the awards reception on Friday, April 26. “These awards highlight the hard work of these students, mentorship of their faculty advisors, and generosity of our supporters.”

The awards include the Undergraduate Summer Research Award, Mary Shine Peterson Award, and Department of Biochemistry Graduate Fellowships. This year’s winners are listed below.

  • Undergraduate Summer Research Awards: Travis Drow, Ryan Kempen, Stella Ma, Saveda Majety, Seamus McWilliams, Benjamin Palatnik, Abbey Ragan, Abigail Watson, Luke Zangl, and Haiyang Zheng
  • Mary Shine Peterson Awards: Mary Donoghue, Sarah Doughty, Claire Evensen, Hallie Hanson, Megan Hazen, Artun Kadaster, Mckayla Miller, Allison Schiffman, Charles Schneider, and Cerise Siamof
  • Department of Biochemistry Graduate Fellowships: Dana Dahhan, Zack Kemmerer, Kyle Nishikawa, and Dylan Plaskon

The Undergraduate Summer Research Awards are supported by generous gifts to funds that support undergraduate research. This year’s awards were made possible by the following funds and their supporters: the Dr. Shang-Chen Pan Fund in Biochemistry, E.W. Hopkins Fund, and Henry A. Lardy Undergraduate Research Fund.

The awards give the biochemistry majors who got these summer awards a stipend to work in a faculty lab over the summer, without having to take up a second summer job to pay living expenses. This allows the students to get full-time experience working in a lab performing research.

Group photo of undergraduate summer research awardees.
Biochemistry Undergraduate Summer Research Award winners (some not pictured). Photo: Laura Vanderploeg.

“This award relieves some stress from my shoulders and will enable me to focus my summer on lab work and really make some progress,” says awardee Abigail Watson, an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Professor Michael Cox. “I am grateful to the supporters who chose to provide awards to students. I can’t wait to learn more as I explore my research throughout the summer in lab.”

Faculty and graduate students also benefit from having undergraduate researchers in the lab. Graduate students like Miguel Osorio Garcia, who mentors Watson in the Cox Lab, not only get experience mentoring young researchers but also get help furthering the research for their Ph.D.

“Abigail is a fantastic undergraduate who takes ownership of her research project, which I think speaks volumes to her future in science,” Garcia says. “Undergraduate research is crucial not only because it is the springboard for potential researchers, but it also brings fresh ideas into scientific fields, allowing further innovation.”

The Mary Shine Peterson Awards are sponsored by the Mary Shine Peterson Scholarship in Biochemistry fund and donors to the award. These awards foster and support advanced undergraduates in biochemistry-related activities. Many students use the award to fund time performing research at another university in the United States or abroad. Other students use it to fund a trip to present their research at a scientific conference or meeting.

Group photo of awardees.
Mary Shine Peterson Award recipients (some not pictured). Photo: Laura Vanderploeg.

Artun Kadaster, a Mary Shine Peterson awardee, will be able to participate in the department’s SCORE program, run by Professor Marv Wickens. The program sends students to elite universities or research institutions across England and Germany to conduct research and learn what it’s like to be part of an international science community.

“As a student, it is often too easy to get caught up in this hustle and bustle of everyday life, but receiving an award such as this serves as a great opportunity to take a moment and reflect on my undergraduate experience up to this point,” he explains. “Studying abroad interests me not only because of the fantastic research opportunities, but moreover the phenomenal life experience that comes with spending a significant amount of time living in another culture.”

Photos of graduate fellowship awardees.
Graduate fellowship awardees with their mentors (some not pictured). Photos: Laura Vanderploeg.

Graduate student fellowships cover a student’s tuition and stipend for an academic year. They provide students flexibility in their research endeavors by not being tied to a specific grant. By freeing up funds, they also, for example, allow faculty to purchase new equipment for labs. Students who receive these fellowships are part of the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB), the joint graduate program of the Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry.

This year’s department graduate fellowships are sponsored by the Denis R. A. and Martha Washburn Wharton Fund, Dr. James Chieh-Hsia Mao Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship Fund, Arthur B. Michael Fund, and Robert and Katherine Burris Biochemistry Fund.

“This award is both a form of recognition of the contributions my research is making to the field of plant biochemistry and an encouraging sign to continue on,” says Dana Dahhan, an IPiB student in the lab of Professor Sebastian Bednarek. “Because of this award, I will be able to attend the annual American Society of Plant Biologists meeting. There I will be able to interact with a host of plant researchers in fields which are new to me.”

The department also congratulates Nathan Thomas on his Louis and Elsa Thomsen Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.