2018 Beckman Student Award Recipients Named

Fifteen students were recently named recipients of the 2018 Beckman Institute student awards. The awards, which are presented to undergraduate and graduate students, will be presented during a reception in April.  

The awards and honorees:

Beckman Institute Undergraduate Fellowship

Supported by funding from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the fellowship offers University of Illinois undergraduate students the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary research at the institute during the summer.

Lotanna Ezenekwe, a sophomore in molecular and cellular biology, will examine the change in parental care behavior after a disruption in the social hierarchy of Amphiprion ocellaris, a species of fish native to the warm waters found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, commonly known as clownfish or anemonefish. She will do her research under the direction of Justin Rhodes, an associate professor of psychology and member of the Cellular and Molecular Foundations of Intelligent Behavior Group.

Vanessa Kalinowska, a junior in molecular and cellular biology, plans to do her research in the laboratory of Daniel Llano, an associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology and member of the Cellular and Molecular Foundations of Intelligent Behavior Group. Through her project she will examine the effect of aging on the organization of long-range projections from the mouse auditory cortex to the auditory midbrain (inferior colliculus).

Madison N. Wilson, a junior working toward a dual degree in electrical engineering and behavioral neuroscience psychology, plans to perform computational analysis and automation of neural metabolic interactions between neurons and glial cells. Her research will take place in the Biophotonics Imaging Lab under the guidance of Stephen Boppart, a professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), and Andrew Bower, a Beckman Institute Graduate Fellow working toward his Ph.D. in ECE—both members of the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group.

Chi Zhang is a junior in engineering mechanics, within the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering. He is exploring a variety of neural network architectures to solve differential equations applied to computational mechanics problems. He will work with Narayana Aluru, a professor of mechanical science and engineering and member of the Computational Multiscale Nanosystems Group.

Carle Neuroscience Institute Undergraduate Research Award

These awards allow promising undergraduates to pursue research in neuroscience or psychology at the Beckman Institute in collaboration with clinicians in the Neuroscience Institute at Carle Foundation Hospital during the summer.

Shivang Chaudhary, a junior in molecular and cellular biology and psychology, plans to work under the guidance of Catherine Christian, an assistant professor in molecular and integrative physiology and a member of the Cellular and Molecular Foundations of Intelligent Behavior Group. He will study hypothalamic gliosis and inflammation in a mouse model of temporal lobe epilepsy, which is the most prevalent type of epilepsy in adults.

Michael Szewczyk, a junior in molecular and cellular biology and psychology, plans to continue his research of the in vitro treatment of mild to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), and its role in preventing neurodegenerative disorders. This will include investigating the effect of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and hypothermia in treating post-TBI neurons. He will work in the lab of Catherine Best, in partnership with the lab of Gabriel Popescu. Best is a research assistant professor of bioengineering, and Popescu is a professor of electrical and computer engineering—both are members of Beckman’s Bioimaging Science and Technology Group.

Erik Haferkamp Memorial Award for Undergraduate Research

In honor of Erik Haferkamp’s life and achievements, his family, friends, and colleagues established the Erik Haferkamp Memorial Fund, which provides awards to undergraduate students who are conducting research in neuroscience at the Beckman Institute.

José González, a sophomore in molecular and cellular biology, and psychology, plans to study the effects of bisphenol A (BPA) on sexual differentiation and behavior of Amphiprion ocellaris, a species commonly known as clownfish or anemonefish. He will work with the metabolomics center. Justin Rhodes, an associate professor of psychology and member of the Cellular and Molecular Foundations of Intelligent Behavior Group, will supervise the research.

Janssen Family Undergraduate Research Award

The Janssen Family Award supports summer research for undergraduate students in neuroscience or psychology, with preference to support female students.

Dominica Lange, a junior in psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience, will work in the Rhodes Lab, to test the hypothesis that bisphenol A (BPA) contaminants in the feed of fish leads to an effect on sex change within the Amphiprion ocellaris due to the properties of BPA as an endocrine disruptor.

Elizabeth Phillips, a junior in psychology and anthropology, plans to continue to study and document how step-fathering behavior of non-breeder Amphiprion ocellaris changes as members of the breeding pair are removed. She will work with Justin Rhodes, an associate professor of psychology and member of the Cellular and Molecular Foundations of Intelligent Behavior Group.

Nadine Barrie Smith Memorial Fellowship

In honor of Nadine Barrie Smith’s life and achievements, Smith’s husband, Andrew Webb, established the Nadine Barrie Smith Memorial Fund that is supported by Smith’s family, friends, and colleagues. The fund provides fellowships to female engineering graduate students who are conducting research in the general field of medical imaging (e.g., ultrasound, optical, magnetic resonance) at the Beckman Institute.

Parinaz Fathi, a bioengineering Ph.D. student in Professor Dipanjan Pan's group, plans to study biodegradable biliverdin nanoparticles for photoacoustic imaging and photothermal therapy of sentinel lymph node metastases. She will continue collaborating with Jefferson Chan, an assistant professor of chemistry, and Brad Sutton, a professor of bioengineering—both members of the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group.

Shachi Mittal, a graduate student in bioengineering, is working to build digital molecular histopathology and patient prognosis tools for a paradigm shift in cancer diagnosis and survival predictions. She will continue working with Rohit Bhargava, a professor of bioengineering and member of the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group.

Thomas and Margaret Huang Award for Graduate Research

In honor of Thomas and Margaret Huang’s contributions to science, technology, and society, the Thomas and Margaret Huang Fund for Graduate Research was established by the Huang family and their friends and colleagues. The fund provides awards to graduate students who are conducting research in the broad area of human-computer intelligent interaction at the Beckman Institute.

Wei Han, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, plans to investigate the problem of designing compact neural network models, provide a unified understanding of the existing empirically proved model selection strategies, and demonstrate new principles for designing parameter-efficient models. He will work with Thomas Huang, a research professor of electrical and computer engineering and founder of the Image Formation and Processing Group.

Ding Liu, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical and computer engineering, will focus his research on connecting low-level image processing and high-level vision through deep learning. He will also work with Thomas Huang.

Neurotechnology for Memory and Cognition Awards

The Neurotechnology for Memory and Cognition Awards, supported by funding from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, offers one University of Illinois graduate student and one University of Illinois undergraduate student the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary research in neuroscience and technology development at the Beckman Institute during the summer.

Xuesong Yang is working toward his Ph.D. in informatics, a multidisciplinary program with electrical and computer engineering, linguistics, and cognitive science. His research explores feasible solutions to linguistic mismatches for current automatic speech recognition by leveraging acoustic phonetics knowledge that presents capability of being transferred across different acoustic conditions and multiple languages. Yang will work with Mark Hasegawa-Johnson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering who leads the Statistical Speech Technology Group.

Kendra Zwonitzer, a junior in molecular and cellular biology, will study the impact of exercise on brain mitochondrial DMA (mtDNA) in the aging PolG mutant mouse. She will do her work in the lab of Daniel Llano, an associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology and member of the Cellular and Molecular Foundations of Intelligent Behavior Group.