Beckman Institute Announces 2019 Award Recipients

Twelve students were recently named recipients of the 2019 Beckman Institute student awards. The awards, which are presented to undergraduate and graduate students, will be presented during a reception in May.

Twelve students were recently named recipients of the 2019 Beckman Institute student awards. The awards, which are presented to undergraduate and graduate students, will be presented during a reception in May.

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. 

José González Abreu is a junior double majoring in psychology and molecular and cellular biology, with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience. He plans to continue his research with psychology Professor Justin Rhodes. He’s examining the effects of Bisphenol A (BPA) on anemonefish, including how six months’ worth of exposure to the chemical will affect the fish’s behavior, sex hormones, brain gene expression, and gonads.

Douglas Chan is a junior studying chemistry and conducts research with Jefferson Chan, an assistant professor of chemistry. Douglas is pursuing research using photoacoustic imaging for early, non-invasive detection of prostate cancer. His plan is to develop a photoacoustic probe that can report on hypoxia, or the absence of adequate oxygen, specifically in prostate tumors by targeting a protein often over-expressed in prostate cancers..

Ilber Manavbasi is a sophomore majoring in molecular and cellular biology honors, and he conducts research with educational psychology Professor Elizabeth Stine-Morrow. His research could develop new methods to promote cognitive resilience and healthy brain aging. This summer, he will study the placebo effect and motivation within experiments on working memory and cognitive training.

Ewelina Nowak is a junior double majoring in psychology and molecular and cellular biology, and is pursuing a certificate in neuroscience. She’s leading a research project in psychology Professor Justin Rhodes’ lab that is exploring how neuroendocrinology affects fathering behavior in anemonefish. Her work will study how male fish react to eggs that are not their own; which could help her better understand how neurobiology affects parental care in other species, including humans.

Masumi Prasad is a junior studying psychology, with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a minor in molecular and cellular biology. She works with molecular and integrative physiology Professor Daniel Llano. She plans to study how different layers in the central auditory system help the brain process different sounds.

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.

Grace Ikenberry is a junior studying psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a minor in communication. She’ll work with human development and family studies Professor Nancy McElwain in the Interdisciplinary Lab for Social Development. Ikenberry will contribute specifically to the Infant Development Project with the goal of learning how parent-child interactions predict brain structures and functions at the end of the child’s first year.

Clementine Zimnicki is a junior studying psychology with a minor in gender and women’s studies. She works in the Attention and Perception Lab with psychology Professor Diane Beck. She plans to study how occipitoparietal alpha oscillations are related to attention lapses, and whether the type of task being conducted during the task matters. Understanding such lapses could provide insight into disorders where |attention is compromised, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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.

Rana Youssef is a junior majoring in molecular and cellular biology honors, with minors in chemistry and Arabic studies. She conducts research with Catherine Christian, an assistant professor of molecular and integrative physiology. She will study the links between epilepsy and dysfunction of the reproductive endocrine system, and how differences in the structures of the brain relate to them both.

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.

Janet Sorrells, a Ph.D. student in bioengineering, is interested in applying imaging and optics to biology and medicine. She hopes to use advanced optical imaging technologies to investigate extracellular vesicles that have been found to play a significant role in intercellular communication throughout the body, in states of both health and disease, particularly cancer. She will work with Professor Stephen Boppart of electrical and computer engineering, bioengineering, and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

Yayao Ma, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, is leading research on neuron spiking imaging on a high-speed fluorescence lifetime imaging microscope that she developed from scratch in the lab of Liang Gao, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. She is studying compressed ultrafast photography, which allows for capturing images of events happening faster than nanoseconds and allows for blur-free observations. Her work can be applied to basic science, industry, and the medical field. She also plans to work with Professors Gabriel Popescu and Catherine Best-Popescu.

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.

Leda Sari, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, works with Professor Mark Hasegawa-Johnson to advance automatic speech recognition systems. Her research is focused on adapting artificial neural networks so that the systems can recognize speech signals from different speakers equally well, regardless of their speaking style, and then applying her methods to audio-visual speech recognition.

Jiahui Yu, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, works with Professor Thomas Huang on research including machine perception, generative models, and high performance computing. His current work is on exploring deep generative models for content creation, and dynamic and efficient deep neural networks for edge devices.