2013 Graduate Excellence Award winners
April 10, 2013Tweet
Natalia Andrievskikh – Comparative Literature
With a unshakable belief that the connection of reading and writing provides the foundation for the development of critical thought and self-expression, Natalia
Andrievskikh creates a learning community in the classroom. Her students write of her intelligence, open mindedness and ability to engage them in challenging, stimulating and rewarding assignments and discussions. Through lecture, small-group discussions and peer review, she draws out the best in her students. Her nominator writes that she is “clearly a talented, engaging and well-informed instructor,” and her students echo those sentiments. Several in particular praise the peer review process she has established for their writing assignments, which has helped them to focus and organize their thoughts. Others write that “she has a pure talent to flex her teaching methodology to engage all her students and harmonize all the different skills each individual contributes to the class” and she is genuinely committed to the continuous academic and personal growth of her students.
Kellie Hasselwander – History
Kellie Hasselwander “brings the past to life” in the classroom through creative tactics such as in-class debates where students critically engage course materials. A colleague writes that it is “in her capacity as a teacher that Kellie shined most brightly” because she effectively creates a student-centered learning environment. Her skills are at such a level that she has been asked to teach other teaching assistants how to teach. Her students note that she has a positive attitude and makes a personal connection to each of them, even making “an 8:30 a.m. discussion worth it.” Also impressive is her ability to grasp and teach material from historical periods and topics that are beyond her area of research. Simultaneously relaxed and serious in the classroom, she asks probing, analytical questions in an engaging and understandable manner. She is always prepared for class, and with an impressive knowledge of the material, she is a role model and inspiration to students.
Corey Mitchell – Chemistry
Following his personal philosophy that you should teach students the way you would want to be taught, Corey Mitchell is a leader and a mentor in the classroom and laboratory. Students write that he displays genuine concern for their progress and motivates them to become more engaged in science. A faculty member writes that “it is clear that he likes to teach.” He is described as a “dynamic and powerful communicator who possesses the gift of being able to make complex subjects understandable to his student learners and fellow teaching assistants,” as well as someone who brings “a high degree of dedication to all aspects of his professional life.” He makes himself available after class, scheduling several hours a week in the Chemistry help room, where students can work on homework sets, practice problems, lab exercises or simply to study, and he thrives on the moments when he sees students experience those “Aha!” moments when everything begins to make sense.
Arnab Roy – Bioengineering
Arnab Roy’s contribution to his department’s educational mission is invaluable writes his nominator. His department chairman has never known a better or more devoted graduate student, in terms of his ability to communicate in the classroom, knowledge of subject matter and time spent in helping students. He is always well prepared for the challenging classes he teaches, assumes additional duties to support the faculty he works with and adapts his teaching style to the needs of his students. Patient but firm, he insists on complete execution of the tasks he assigns, while making himself available to students when they need extra help. Students praise his ability to explain difficult concepts with his own, unique stories and diagrams, and note that he “never let us down”. Called the “total package” when it comes to teaching, his compassion, maturity and approachability are a comfort as well as an attraction to his students.
Sandra Sanchez-Lopez – History
A dedicated scholar and creative thinker, Sandra Sanchez-Lopez is a thoughtful, compassionate and persuasive teacher. Her students write that she has a clear grasp of the material and how it relates to the broader concepts they study, she structures sessions in a phenomenal way, and she guides them as they “connect the dots” and gain insight. Her standards are high, but she is never unfair or unkind, instead pushing her students to improve their work. Through her detailed and constructive comments on their written work, she prompts students to abandon their comfort zones, while serving as an exceptional resource for them. Always prepared with brilliant, complex questions to encourage students to think, she also has an inclusive teaching style, prioritizing diversity in thinking and learning. A warm individual who inspires students to do better, she is committed to involving every student in class discussions, which leads to a rich, varied and exciting discussion every class.
Kyle Temkin – Electrical Engineering
A selfless technology innovator who has used his programming skills to develop “Web-enriched” methods for student-customized instruction, Kyle Temkin has enabled his department to rethink how it teaches students. He believes that technology should be leveraged to improve education. Students rave about his web-based innovations, which give them online access to lectures, practice problems, homework, quizzes and labs – and immediate grades on their submissions. They write that he is also always available for help, whether at 9 p.m. or 2 a.m., and “he truly cares about his students.” His nominator writes that “Kyle’s efforts have revolutionized the way we teach early undergraduate courses…and go far beyond” expectations. As a result of his work, Kyle has already been the instructor of record for a number of courses. His technology improvements have also allowed his department to “flip” a course, where students are required to watch short online lectures, freeing up class time for hands-on activities.
Robert Wilson – English, General Literature and Rhetoric
Always striving for his course material to be relevant to students, Robert Wilson is a knowledgeable, caring and approachable teacher who develops a great rapport with his students and looks to outside source material to connect them to challenging concepts and difficult course material. Students write that he helps them “come to an understanding of the texts” and turns what was originally thought to be “uninteresting, incomprehensible, and challenging into something that was engaging, stimulating, and thought-provoking.” His lessons are memorable, as he makes abstract subject matter accessible and intriguing through “creative and original pedagogical strategies he has developed.” He is always willing to help outside of class and his passion for teaching is apparent. Students call him fun, organizaed, professional, articulate and intelligent as he “unpacks” the difficulty of the course material into understandable terms. One adds that his feedback and guidance on a paper was “a defining moment” in her undergraduate career.
Mark Wu – Finance
Mark Wu approaches teaching the old fashioned way – he cares for his students and devotes the time necessary to them so they learn. He tailors his teaching directly to their needs, using real-world situations and visual aids to help explain complex concepts and group presentations to engage the entire class in active learning. His nominator writes that he is “remarkable” in his ability to bring finance alive to his students, helping them to develop the mathematics, logic and intuition behind the numbers. Students consistently give him the highest evaluations of any finance instructor, tenured or otherwise. His students write that whether he is teaching in a classroom or for an online course, he is comprehensive and flexible, always available after class to answer questions. They add that he shows a thorough understanding of the subject matter and clearly demonstrates commitment, enthusiasm and a superior ability for conveying it to his students.
Mark Celio – Psychology
Called the driving force propelling studies forward, Mark Celio has shown great energy, initiative and creativity in research that crosses several fields and that focuses on factors contributing to the development and maintenance of addictive behaviors such as substance abuse and gambling. His nominator writes that he “has been the de facto PI in a collaborative field investigation of college student drinkers” exploring adolescent heavy drinking, tolerance and cognitive change. Others write that his statistical expertise has provided a “rich and stimulating yield of findings” and “his knowledge of the research literature and care in data interpretation are exceptional.” Already first author of one publication, he has seven peer reviewed publications to his credit and five manuscripts in preparation. He has presented at 17 national meetings and guest lectured a half dozen times. His persistence, problem-solving and professionalism have been critical to the coordination and success of the projects he is involved with.
Jessica Frazier - History
With a record that is rarely matched by any graduate student in the humanities or social sciences, Jessica Frazier is at the cutting edge of work on “second-wave feminism” – the women’s movements of the 1960s and 1970s which helped transform American work, politics and society. She already has one refereed publication, in Peace and Change, two more in preparation, five Web-based articles and an encyclopedia article. She has received two major grants to support her research analyzing the interactions between U.S. and Vietnamese women and the images and texts that came out of those meetings. Her work builds on scholarship that examines racial and class diversity, bringing it to the fore. Her work “displays a great deal of maturity, commitment, and a profound sense of purpose” and “promises to speak to a broad audience and make real contributions to our understanding of women and issues of peace during the 1960s and 1970s.”
Alka Gupta – Leadership and Organizational Behavior
Alka Gupta has already established herself as a strong researcher, with three publications − two in The Leadership Quarterly and one in Organizational Research Methods – as well as nine conference presentations and eight works in progress. She focuses on two interrelated areas, the first investigating leadership in the context of decision making under crisis and the second examining the consequences of the dark side of personality of upper-level leaders who are responsible for making organizational decisions. Her dissertation research explores cognitive and emotional processes that affect individuals, groups and collectives in crisis decision making, a relatively unexplored area. Her nominators write that her work “shows a conceptual and methodological rigor that often involves dealing with complex multi-level issues both in theory and methods, and incorporates sophisticated simulation techniques and content analyses in addition to more traditional lab and field studies, to make an original and significant contribution” to the field of leadership studies.
Elliott Jagniecki – Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies
Elliott Jagniecki has a real talent for research in the lab by constructing from scratch the gas flow-through apparatus that is needed for the experiments that he does with variable carbon-dioxide pressures. His research is aimed at understanding the water chemistry and climatic conditions that prevailed during the formation of a closed saline lake that existed about 50 million years ago in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. He has received two research grants to support his field and laboratory research and has four publications in respected journals including the international journal Sedimentology. He has also made eight presentations at annual meetings of the Geological Society of America. His nominators write that his research “provides a valuable background for understanding present-day variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide,” and “has great significance as scientists attempt to predict global climate change over the next hundred years as we burn fossil fuels and raise atmospheric CO2.”
Kristine Jennings – Comparative Literature
Kristine Jennings has quickly established herself as a new and important voice in eighteenth-century studies, German and English literatures, psychoanalytic theory and literary studies, and feminist scholarship. She has six publications to her credit, with three works in progress, and has made more than a dozen conference and colloquium presentations. Her research focuses on the development of the novel in Europe, but also engages more broadly with the history of women’s writing and reading, and how gender and sexuality are constructed in language and literature. Her nominators write that her dissertation is of exceptionally high quality and her research encompasses several primary works, adding that “her approach is innovative, drawing from compelling current critical movements, yet responsive to the imminent demands of the works under investigation.” She has also developed a plan for a future project on the “traffic in imaginative literature between Britain and Germany” that will open up a promising new field of research.
Jen Kennedy – Art History
Called an extremely impressive and determined emerging scholar who is positioned to become a leader in her field, Jen Kennedy’s research is invested in constructions of gender and sexuality in visual culture, in art, in the popular media and particularly in instances of exchange between the two. She has published four refereed publications, three commissioned publications, two exhibition reviews, seven exhibition catalogues and two pamphlets. Also sought after as a speaker, she has given 16 conference symposia and talks and 18 exhibitions and performances. Her nominators write that she is “singular in her spirit of intellectual ambition, her record of scholarly excellence, and the clear sense of academic purpose that she brings to her writing and professional activities.” Her work has garnered her a prestigious multi-year fellowship from the Social Science Humanities Research Council of Canada, and she was admitted to the highly competitive Whitney Independent Study Program, which accepts only six students a year.
Julie (Szu Yu) Liao – Biological Sciences
Biofilms are composed of surface-attached microbial communities and have a profound tolerance against antimicrobial agents. Decades of research on the antibiotic tolerance of biofilms have yet to uncover why and how biofilms are antibiotic resistant, but Julie (Szu Yu) Liao has identified the “first transcriptional regulator to be linked to biofilm antibiotic tolerance. She has also demonstrated that this regulatory protein is associated with chronic infections, opening up avenues for therapeutics of biofilm-related complications in medical, industrial and environmental settings. Her findings have resulted in four publications, including one in the Journal of Bacteriology that was featured in the American Society of Microbiology magazine as a journal highlight. She has made two conference abstracts and presentations. Her nominators write that she is “highly dedicated and unusually productive and original in her research work,” and she “is a careful researcher who has no hesitation to tackle new research directions or new approached to address her research questions.”
Michael Reale – Computer Science
Michael Reale uses eye tracking and gaze estimation in his research, focusing on how to model and develop an intelligent human-machine interaction system for a wide range of applications in security, law enforcement, medicine, education and entertainment. His nominators write that he has developed novel, efficient and effective algorithms and sophisticated applications “capable of automatically extracting and tracking human facial and gesture features” from multiple sources including 2D videos, 3D geometric models and 4D video sequences. They add that “specifically, his work focuses on the automated, real time recognition of human facial expressions from 3D images captured as frames from a human subject. The facial recognition aspect of his work will be of value in surveillance, in patient monitoring, in aids for the handicapped and in developing computer avatars.” His groundbreaking work is the first of its kind in the research community and has resulted in one patent application and 13 publications.
Amanda Ruiz – Mathematics
Amanda Ruiz works with matroid theory, a major branch of combinatorics with applications in many areas of mathematics. One combinatoric subfield is oriented matroids that have extra structure that model matrices over the real numbers and lead to deep interplay between combinatorics and topology. Her research is in phased matroids – with extra structure that model matrices over complex numbers – an area that is quite new. Her thesis involves generalizing a theorem her nominator describes as “wicked hard,” yet she completely generalized it and “brought to light sharp contrasts between the phased matroid case and the oriented matroid case.” Her results “suggest new lines of research in some of the most central problems in topology.” She has also developed a novel set of techniques unlike anything in oriented matroid theory. The breadth of her work is also evident through her successful supervision of and contributions to two undergraduate research projects not related to her research.
Andra Serban – Leadership and Organizational Behavior
With impressive initiative and never afraid to push the boundaries of investigation, Andra Serban uses some of the most advanced analytical techniques to investigate leadership relations in a social network. Her nominator writes that “she has transformed an area that is traditionally viewed as a relatively ‘soft’ area into an area that is setting the standards of analytical rigor.” She has five journal publications, as well as four proceedings abstracts and presentations to her credit, and two submitted for review and six in progress. Her research focuses on leadership as a multi-level phenomenon, specifically on theory building and testing leader relations at the individual, dyad, group, network and collective levels of analysis. Her nominators write that her work is “cutting-edge both conceptually and methodologically” as she analyzes leadership emergence in teams in relation to the network structure that develops among the team members as they engage in project-oriented teamwork.
Thomas Zengeya – Chemistry
A motivated, mature and diligent researcher, Thomas Zengeya is making substantial contributions in organic chemistry. He is first author on a VIP paper in Angewandte Chemie, International Edition, on an invited book chapter and an article, and has co-authored four others. He has also presented at two conferences and presented his poster at the prestigious Gordon Research Conference on Nucleosides, Nucleotides and Oligonucleotides. His research targets double helical RNA sequence selectivity and, as the sole leader and main driving force on a PNA project, he contributed to impressive results that demonstrate for the first time that PNA formed sequence selective triple helix with double stranded RNA. He achieved strong and selective binding at physiologically relevant conditions – the hardest problem in triple helical recognition of nucleic acids. His nominator writes that “Thomas’s research represents a major breakthrough in the field of RNA recognition, because it is the first time that binding between PNA and double helical RNA has been reported.”
Service and Outreach
Megan Fegley – Chemistry
Megan Fegley combines an outstanding work ethic and superb research abilities to bring science to the community, helping to grow the STEM pipeline locally while raising Binghamton University’s profile nationally. She has served as a mentor for students in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute interdisciplinary program and for the Go Green Institute, as the laboratory instructor for Binghamton’s Upward Bound program and the regional Chemistry Olympiad, as a judge for the regional high school Science Olympiad and as coordinator for National Chemistry Week community outreach at the Oakdale Mall. She is treasurer of the Graduate Chemistry Club and played a key role in coordinating the Binghamton Graduate Student Symposium at the American Chemical Society annual meeting in 2012. Her nominators write that “she is a class act and a model for how all graduate students should be engaged,” and she is also an excellent role model to help young girls become interested in science.
Nicole Santalucia – English, General Literature and Rhetoric
Nicole Santalucia has enriched the lives of members of the local community through her development of the Binghamton Poetry Project, a series of creative writing workshops that has been presented to a diverse cross section of youth and adults. The project sends trained Binghamton University creative writing instructors into the community to conduct free poetry workshops to help young and old alike learn how to write and read creatively. In 2012, the project presented 25 workshops at the Broome County Public Library, the YWCA of Broome County and the Boys and Girls Club of Western Broome County. Her nominators write that “the strength of her commitment to the Binghamton Poetry Project has resulted in unprecedented interaction among Binghamton University’s creative writers and students, and the local community.” She has also been a mentor to graduate students, an organizer of graduate student readings and a creator of an exhibit of local students’ poems and photos after the 2011 flood.