2008 Beckman Institute Graduate Fellows Announced

The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology is pleased to announce the selections for the 2008 Graduate Fellows program: Nitin Agarwal, Peter Freddolino, Justin Haldar, Agatha Luszpak, and Mahdi Rastad.

The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology is pleased to announce the selections for the 2008 Graduate Fellows program. The Beckman Institute Graduate Fellows program provides an excellent opportunity for young scholars who are engaged in thesis research at the M.A., M.S., or Ph.D. level. The Fellows were selected based on the quality of their proposed work, the likelihood that the work would lead to important new results in science and engineering, and the relevance of the proposed project to existing Beckman Institute research.

The 2008 Beckman Institute Graduate Fellows are as follows:

Nitin Agarwal:
Nitin is working on a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. His research aims to improve the performance and reliability of micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). The first objective of his work will be to develop a framework to quantify the effect of variations in material properties, geometry, or operating conditions on various output parameters relevant to dynamic analysis of MEMS. Agarwal will then employ this uncertainty quantification data to identify the parameters which are critical to device performance and design effective and reliable MEMS devices.

Peter Freddolino:
Peter is pursuing his Ph.D. in Biophysics and Computational Biology from the School of Life Sciences. As a Beckman Graduate Fellow he plans to focus his research on creating a better theoretical framework to describe the protein folding process. Freddolino hopes this research path will both aid in the understanding of diseases caused by point mutations in proteins, and will also allow the design of protein variants with novel function.

Justin Haldar:
Justin is pursuing his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. His research is developing a novel multi-modal approach to magnetic resonance neuroimaging which allows brain physiology to be characterized from structural, biochemical, and functional perspectives. Current limitations for multi-modal studies include long acquisition times and low signal-to-noise ratios. Justin's work will fuse information from multiple modalities to permit high quality image reconstructions from significantly shorter experiments.

Agatha Luszpak:
Agatha is part of the Medical Scholars Program (M.D./Ph.D. Program) where she is working on her M.D. from the College of Medicine and Ph.D. in Neuroscience. Her work is exploring the causes of fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder that includes mental retardation, attention deficit, hyperactivity, and behaviors characteristic of autism. Luszpak's research will look at deficits in neuropeptide release as a possible cause of some neurobehavioral abnormalities of fragile X syndrome. Her goal is to discover therapeutics that could alleviate neuropeptide release and provide a possible therapy for fragile X syndrome.

Mahdi Rastad:
Mahdi is working toward a Ph.D. in Economics. His research is probing the effects of emotions on economic behavior, specifically on fostering or reducing trust and cooperation. In his experiments participants are given the opportunity to send signals about their emotions by way of dynamic facial expressions thorough a 3D animation software (Poser). Coupling this novel methodology with a special statistical technique, Functional Data Analysis, provides Rastad with way to effectively measure and quantify emotions as they relate to trust and cooperation.

The Beckman Institute Graduate Fellows each receive an 11 month, 50% appointment commensurate with the pay rate of the graduate student's home department. Funds will also be provided to each awardee to attend one national meeting to present the results of their research.