Graduate Student Excellence Award Winners

2020 Graduate Student Excellence Award Winners

Excellence in Teaching

Nilüfer Akalin
Nilüfer Akalin’s sociological work examines two key issues in modern America, immigration and healthcare. Akalin, a doctoral candidate, has taught courses at Binghamton University covering subjects like social deviance and social theory, and given five conference presentations on capitalism and gender. Her teaching philosophy encourages students to apply sociology to themselves and the world around them. Akalin recently received the Sociology Department’s Workshop Participation Award, and began research on the opioid crisis in Upstate New York.

Marc Davignon
Marc Davignon seeks to help his students better understand their sociopolitical world, and develop diverse perspectives. Davignon, a doctoral candidate, has taught five political science courses at Binghamton University and had his work presented at two political science conferences. He has also written five working papers and dissertation chapters. Davignon’s current dissertation explores the economic incentives for global human rights improvements. Evaluations from his students reflect his willingness to help in the classroom and in office hours, and praise class discussions.

Katrina England
Katrina England encourages students to develop powerful dialogues among themselves and sharpen their critical thinking skills. England, a doctoral candidate, has served as instructor or teaching assistant for over a dozen Binghamton University courses and given nine conference presentations. Her Critical Thinking Lab, which trains select seniors to help fellow students with analytical writing projects, is currently in its third year. Student feedback reflects an enthusiastic, constructive teacher who encourages her students to think of philosophy in new ways.

Qifei Kao
Qifei Kao’s use of technology and media in both her Chinese language courses and translation studies courses develops a new level of enthusiasm in her students. The doctoral student, who also has two master's degrees in translating and interpreting, has served as an interpretation intern at the United Nations and given multiple conference presentations. Kao brings this international perspective to her teaching strategy, hoping to give students an open mind. Student evaluations praise her deep knowledge of the subject and thought-provoking classroom discussions.

James Lethbridge
James Lethbridge’s teaching principles aim to help his students understand philosophy in an ever-changing world. Lethbridge, a doctoral candidate, is described by his students as passionate, knowledgeable, and insightful. He is the current director of Binghamton University’s Critical Thinking Lab, and has served as an instructor at Binghamton, Bloomfield College, and the University of Toledo. Lethbridge has presented eight papers on religion, pacifism and capitalism, and authored a textbook chapter on comic books during the Cold War.

Sepehr Maktabi
As a teacher and scholar, Sepehr Maktabi’s goal is to promote a love of science and a spirit of collaboration. His work on biophysics and microfluidics has been published in three peer-reviewed journals, and been given at eight conferences. Maktabi is currently a doctoral candidate at Binghamton University and a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California. He has served as an engineering instructor at Binghamton since 2015, and was previously awarded Instructor of the Year by the Pi Tau Sigma Society.

Hannah Morton
Hannah Morton’s dissertation on the bullying experiences of children with autism touches an especially relevant issue today, with bullying being increasingly recognized as an epidemic. Since 2015, Morton has worked in the Autism Lab in the psychology department and in affiliation with the Institute for Child Development. Prior to coming to Binghamton University, Morton conducted research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Morton has published seven textbook chapters and journal articles and has given almost two dozen professional presentations on children’s mental health. Her scientific acumen and overall enthusiasm leads to an engaging classroom environment resulting in high praise from her students.

Deeraj Nagothu
Doctoral student Deeraj Nagothu’s work focuses on key issues in today’s world, such as forensic video analysis and network security. His work has appeared in seven publications and conferences, including those affiliated with the prestigious Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. As an instructor, Nagothu encourages creative problem solving among his students, and challenges them to learn from their mistakes. His willingness to help students and deep knowledge of the subject earns him high praise in class evaluations. 

Rebecca Pearce
Rebecca Pearce wants the students in her biology classes to approach science with a sense of discovery. The doctoral candidate has served as a teaching assistant for two biology courses since 2016, and even taught English in Brazil for two years. Her enthusiasm for animals and teaching goes beyond the classroom, as the Cambridge graduate also helped injured sea turtles through an internship in a Brazilian nature center. Pearce’s students praise her creativity, general love of learning, and thoroughness.

Mariah Postlewait
During her time at Binghamton University, Mariah Postlewait has touched the lives of countless students through her teaching experience. Postlewait, a doctoral student, has served as a teaching assistant or instructor for over a dozen art courses at Binghamton. Her love of art and photography extends beyond the classroom, helping curate five exhibits at museums in Michigan and New York. Along with creativity and collaboration, she emphasizes critical thinking and compassion in her students. Postlewait has also given eight lectures on art and nine conference presentations.

Odilka Santiago
Odilka Santiago has taught a wide variety of courses during her time at Binghamton University, including those touching key issues like urban poverty and human rights. Santiago, a doctoral candidate, is a previous winner of the Latin American Student Union’s Supportive Faculty Award. She has given over a dozen conference presentations on race and homelessness, and served as both a GA and instructor for the Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies program for several years, teaching about Latin and Caribbean history and contemporary issues.

Erica Schumann
Erica Schumann encourages her students to develop their own interests in the many different subjects she teaches. Their evaluations praise her enthusiasm and ability to cultivate a genuine interest in the subjects. Schumann, a doctoral candidate, has served as a teaching assistant for four years, and has given two presentations on the historical significance of cookbooks. Her classes cover topics such as Food in American Culture and Foundations of America. In 2019, Schumann was awarded three fellowships to support her research on early American women’s mathematics education, and their use of measurement within the household.

Christine Sylvester
Christine Sylvester values her students’ critical thinking skills and encourages them to sharpen their minds in her classes. She has taught six political science courses at Binghamton University and published two journal articles on integrating technology into the classroom. Sylvester, a doctoral candidate, has also served as a research assistant for the British and European parliaments, and given six talks on agenda-setting in governments. Student evaluations praise her enthusiasm and deep knowledge of political science.

Elisa Taveras Peña
Fulbright scholar Elisa Taveras Peña brings her real-world experience in finance to the classes she teaches at Binghamton University. She also brings a teaching philosophy centered around being an approachable educator. Student evaluations laud her ability to distill even the most complex economic principles in a meaningful way to those who struggled with math. Taveras Peña is also active in the Economics Department Graduate Student Organization, having served as both senator and president.

Özge Yol
Özge Yol’s teaching philosophy centers around creating a welcoming environment for all students in the classroom while encouraging discussion and self-reflection. Her extensive experience in education covers both university and k-12 settings in various countries. Yol, an Ed.D. candidate, has also presented over two dozen papers, and published in prominent journals, with five more under review or in progress. She is a two-time recipient of the Graduate Student Employees Union’s Professional Development Award, and was named New York State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Member of the Month in May.

Excellence in Research

Burak Başaranlar
Doctoral candidate Burak Başaranlar’s work on his native Turkey provides a fascinating look at non-Turkish segments of the Turkish Republic, specifically Kurds and Jews. Başaranlar has published three articles in his field of study and reviewed a book on the history of Kurds in the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. He has given presentations at Columbia University and the Middle East Studies Association Annual Conference. Başaranlar has also served as a research assistant in various publishing and translation projects, and an editor for the Journal of Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association.

Nicholas Buss
Ph.D candidate Nicholas Buss’ research examines how environmental pollutants affect disease in wildlife, a critical topic as concern about climate change grows. His work has been published in three journals, and presented at eight different conferences. Buss has served as a graduate teaching assistant for introductory science courses at Binghamton University, and helped judge local school science fairs. He has also helped bring fun and learning to people with intellectual disabilities through live animal interaction at ACHIEVE.

Tak Ian Chio
Doctoral candidate Tak Ian Chio's research encompasses multiple areas at the interface of chemistry and biology. She has published in five scientific journals, and presented at over a dozen national conferences. Her recent publication on antibody-drug conjugates, which appeared in the April 2019 issue of Bioconjugate Chemistry, was one of the most-read papers in the journal for over a month. Chio works hard outside the classroom too, volunteering at Binghamton University’s Go Green Institute and at the annual Binghamton Science Olympiad.

Daniel Cunha
Ph.D. candidate Daniel Cunha’s work on the interaction between society and nature has been published in six languages and in journals covering a myriad of subjects. His background in chemical engineering and environmental science helps him bring a unique interdisciplinary approach to sociology. In addition to helping with 15 translation projects, Cunha has spoken at nearly two dozen events across the world. He has helped educate the world on the environment through his work with UNESCO’s Delft Institute for Water Education.

Riya Das
Ph.D. Riya Das’ work presents its audience with a new perspective on women in Victorian-era literature. She has given presentations on the works of authors like George Eliot and Bram Stoker at eight conferences, and helped translate Bengali literature. Das has taught eight Binghamton University classes and moderated two panels for the school, along with a panel at the British Women’s Writers Conference. Her article on Eliot’s Daniel Deronda is expected in the spring edition of Texas Studies in Literature and Language.

Yang Gao
With eight articles in scientific journals to his name, Ph.D. candidate Yang Gao has already made major contributions to the field of biological microelectromechanical systems engineering. His focus on green energy is especially relevant in today’s environmentally-conscious world. Along with his articles, Gao also has two patents, and has given presentations at ten microsystems and sensory conferences across the country. He has also served as a teaching assistant in Binghamton University lab courses.

Ioannis Giannakis
Ioannis Giannakis’ work on quantum materials has resulted in four publications, including one in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science Advances journal. Giannakis, a doctoral candidate, has given talks at American Physical Society conferences. He also worked as a graduate teaching assistant at Binghamton University for four years, and has worked as a research assistant in Dr. Pegor Aynajian’s Scanning Tunneling Microscopy and Spectroscopy Lab. Giannakis has previously worked as an engineer for Seagate data storage.

Jonathan Jones
Jonathan S. Jones’ work connects the Civil War era to modern American issues through his discussion of the opioid crises in both time periods. Jones, a doctoral candidate, has had his works published in both popular media and peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of the Civil War Era, the premier journal in Civil War studies. He has given over a dozen presentations on life after the American Civil War, and served as a co-editor for the Binghamton Journal of History. Jones has also taught three Binghamton University classes, and served as a teaching assistant for six classes.

Hongya Lu
Ph.D. candidate Hongya Lu’s work in machine learning and data mining proves especially relevant in today’s data-centric tech world. Lu, a graduate research associate in the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center, hopes to develop predictive machine modeling for smart manufacturing and medical research. She has published six articles in three peer-reviewed journals, and given eight presentations at engineering conferences across the country. Lu has also served as a graduate teaching assistant, and helped create data mining course materials in international course programs.

Seyed Yahya Nikouei
Seyed Yahya Nikouei’s work aims to make security smarter through machine learning. His work has been showcased in professional journals and conferences alike, and his report on smart surveillance was awarded “Best Paper” at the 2019 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Consumer Communications and Networking Conference. Nikouei, a doctoral candidate, has also served as a project advisor and teaching assistant in Binghamton University’s special Engineering and Design Division program for first-year college students.  

Craig Polizzi
Doctoral candidate Craig Polizzi’s work seeks to unlock the mysteries of the human mind and help those afflicted with trauma. Polizzi has served as the graduate research coordinator at Binghamton University’s Lab of Consciousness, Cognition, and Psychopathology, and had his work published in multiple peer-reviewed journals. He has also spoken at 18 conferences on post-traumatic stress disorder and related conditions and is a previous recipient of the Binghamton University Faculty Commendation for Excellence.

Christopher Singh
Doctoral candidate Christopher Singh’s work plays a key role in building the future of computers by combining physics and artificial intelligence. His essays have appeared in several physics journals, and his work was awarded “Best Presentation” at the New York State American Physical Society conference. In addition to his work as a research assistant, Singh helps run a self-sustaining condensed matter journal club at Binghamton University, which fosters scientific excellence for graduate students in the physics department.

Excellence in Service/Outreach

Summer Bottini
Ph.D. candidate and certified behavioral analyst Summer Bottini’s work seeks to improve the lives of children with autism and their caretakers. Currently an intern at Emory University’s Marcus Autism Center, Bottini has also worked in various capacities at Binghamton University’s Institute for Child Development since 2015. She has given twenty presentations on children’s mental health and published six manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, with nine more under review or in preparation.

Jennifer DeGregorio
Jen DeGregorio’s work promotes engagement with literature among Binghamton area residents and University students. A Ph.D. student, DeGregorio is Assistant Director of The Binghamton Poetry Project, which offers off-campus community poetry workshops. As Co-Director of the Literati Reading Series and the Writing by Degrees conference, DeGregorio has also brought nationally-recognized writers to Binghamton for public readings. Additionally, she serves as Poetry Co-Editor of Harpur Palate, the University’s nationally recognized literary magazine. DeGregorio’s poems, essays, reviews, and journalism have appeared widely in journals and newspapers.  

Gabreélla Friday
Clark Fellow and doctoral student Gabreélla Friday has focused her work on those who are often ignored by society. Her research and conference work has focused on the opioid epidemic in Upstate New York and the effects of incarceration on women, especially women of color. Friday is the graduate advisor for the Black Student Union and advises their U-TURN program, which helps mentor incarcerated youth. Along with serving as a teaching assistant, she has also helped prepare students for college through the Binghamton Enrichment Program.

Joshua Gonzalez
Graduate student and Clark Fellow Joshua Gonzalez’s dedication goes beyond the classroom. His work with the special Johnson City Redevelopment Research Team examines urban revitalization, and his volunteer work has focused on populations like underprivileged youth and vulnerable tenants. Gonzalez is also active in organizations like the Black Student Union, and has served on the planning committee for the 2019 Men of Color Conference. His service on campus includes the Underage Drinking Prevention Committee and the Town Gown Advisory Board.

Seigie Kennedy
Seigie Kennedy’s passion for helping those afflicted with mental illness is evident in both her academic and professional achievements. Kennedy, a doctoral candidate, has served as an intern for Veterans Affairs offices, hospitals, and youth facilities throughout Upstate New York. Her work on trauma and PTSD has been presented at six conferences, and generated four studies in Binghamton University’s Couple Adjustment to Stress and Trauma Laboratory. Kennedy has also served as a classroom and laboratory instructor for four undergraduate psychology courses at Binghamton.

Anthony Norberto
Graduate student Anthony Norberto’s work in and out of the classroom seeks to improve the world around him. His work as a research assistant examines the economic conditions of Johnson City and engages residents in community improvement initiatives, as does his work with the Binghamton Planning Department. Norberto presented his work on Johnson City’s economy at the Binghamton University Community Engagement Showcase in April 2019, and discussed economic disparities in Queens at the 2018 Race, Ethnicity, and Place Conference. 

Siara Rouzer
Siara Rouzer’s work seeks to improve the lives of those affected by substance abuse. She has given eight presentations on prenatal alcohol exposure, and has two research grants on the subject completed or in progress. Rouzer, a doctoral candidate, has also published her work in two peer-reviewed journals and was awarded “Best Poster” for her presentation at the 2018 Gordon Research Seminar on Alcohol and the Nervous System. She is also a member of the American Psychological Association’s Student Science Council.


Rebecca Warshofsky
Rebecca Warshofsky’s work explores literature across time and culture and makes connections between literature and philosophy. Along with serving as an instructor and tutor, the doctoral candidate has contributed to her department's Pedagogy & Professionalism Workshop here at Binghamton and has given a variety of conference presentations on thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche and concepts like language and identity. Warshofsky has also served in various positions in the Comparative Literature Graduate Student Organization and helped introduce incoming graduate students to the department as an orientation counsellor.  


2019 Graduate Student Excellence Award Winners

Excellence in Teaching

Irem Ayan
Doctoral candidate Irem Ayan brings a literal world of experience to her students at Binghamton University. Ayan, a native of Turkey, has used her language interpretation skills at both NATO and the United Nations. She has taught almost a dozen translation and French language courses at Binghamton since 2015, and has given four conference presentations on translation and language. Her goal as a teacher is to help students develop intellectual curiosity, and to encourage them to incorporate sociological and philosophical theories into their translation careers.

Laurel Anne Braun
Doctoral candidate Laurel Anne Braun has taught a wide variety of courses during her eight years at Binghamton University, focusing on women in art, Medieval art as well as introductory art courses. Braun, a longtime member of the Art History Graduate Student Union, Medieval and Early Modern Society Club, and seven other professional art history societies, describes her role as a teacher “to facilitate each student’s engagement in a way that acknowledges their own interests, beliefs, ideas and experiences.”

Allison Bugenis
Doctoral candidate Allison Bugenis’ experience with political science is far from typical. Along with serving as an instructor for three courses at Binghamton University, she has worked as a coder for the Mass Mobilization Protest Dataset and a researcher into judicial elections. Bugenis is a recipient of the George L. Hinman Doctoral Fellowship in Public Policy and has given 10 conference presentations on topics ranging from biodiversity to LGBTQ protection. Her goal as a teacher is to help her students develop critical thinking skills and help them understand that there is more than one right answer.

Madhi Farahikia
Doctoral candidate Madhi Farahikia has developed an impressive résumé of experience in both the laboratory and at the conference podium during his time at Binghamton University. Along with working in the Mechanical Engineering Department’s Vibration and Acoustics Laboratory for over four years, Farahikia has presented at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ International Mechanical Engineering Conference & Exposition. He considers knowing students personally to be a critical part of the classroom teaching experience, and has incorporated this philosophy into the seven online and in-person courses he has taught at Binghamton. 

Jonathan Jones
Doctoral candidate Jonathan Jones brings years of experience to Binghamton University and is currently working on a dissertation about an American opioid epidemic. His research into the crisis following the Civil War is especially relevant today, and has been featured on the WBUR CommonHealth series. Jones is also dedicated to helping develop quality online education at Binghamton University, and has taught an online, introductory-level American history class five times. During his three years as a teaching assistant, both his instructors and students have given Jones enthusiastic endorsements.

Deirdre Riley
During her time at Binghamton University, doctoral student Deirdre Riley has assisted the University’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in operating its lecture series and editing Mediaevalia, its interdisciplinary journal. She published her first scholarly article in 2016 and has twice taught English classes in the Binghamton Enrichment Program (BEP), a summer program that prepares historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged high schoolers with the tools to succeed as Binghamton University students. Riley strives to encourage a sense of inclusion, accessibility and open discussion in her Medieval literature classes.

Lynn Schmitt
Doctoral candidate Lynn Schmitt believes that teachers can be lifelong learners. She has taught seven chemistry classes at Binghamton University and has two papers in preparation. Schmitt also participated in several community activities to encourage young people’s interest in science, including two Science Olympiads and two public chemistry demonstrations. Her dedication to future generations is apparent both in her love of teaching and her work with Binghamton’s Go Green Institute. Schmitt has two pending patents from her research involving negative ions in water.

Aaron Schultz
Doctoral candidate Aaron Schultz’s philosophical style of discussion has proven popular with the students in his philosophy classes. Schultz has been awarded a dissertation assistantship and has served as a teaching assistant at Binghamton University for three years. Along with being on the executive board of Binghamton University’s Social, Political, Ethical and Legal Philosophy Graduate Student Organization, he has served as a group meditation facilitator at the OASIS after-school program, the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier and the Binghamton chapter of the Wake Up mindfulness group.

Elif Sendur
Doctoral candidate Elif Sendur’s examination of popular culture and film through a political lens is especially important today, as the film industry and mainstream media in general grows more aware of its own internal political issues. Her interest in gender and LGBTQ equality goes beyond teaching. Sendur has also served as an educator, consultant, and eventually program coordinator, for Binghamton University’s Lesbian and Gay Family-Building Project. Students have called her knowledgeable, enthusiastic and compassionate.

Alison Twang
Doctoral candidate Alison Twang’s passion for engagement goes beyond her love of classroom discussion. Twang has served as the associate director for Binghamton University’s Center for Civic Engagement for over a year, helping to develop a strong town and gown relationship with the greater Binghamton area. Along with teaching two classes on civic engagement, she has given six presentations on the subject. Her teaching philosophy of embracing complexity and ambiguity as well as challenging assumptions is well-received by students, who have called her a high-quality and inspiring instructor.

Victor Wambua
After teaching for eight consecutive semesters, doctoral candidate Victor Wambua is still looking for ways to improve his instructional style and skills. With a strong background in organic chemistry, he believes teachers have a duty to never stop learning. He shares his passion for chemistry, not only in the five classes he has taught at Binghamton University, but with young students in the greater Binghamton area. Wambua provided three science club demonstrations to elementary schools in Binghamton and Vestal, has presented at six conferences and workshops and has published a manuscript in the Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Kai Wen Yang
Doctoral candidate Kai Wen Yang believes teachers can learn from their students. Yang, who has taught almost 20 courses at Binghamton University since 2012, believes students should be able to apply their in-class learning experiences to their everyday lives. An alumnus of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Yang has an extensive research background and has presented at seven professional conferences on sociology, capitalism and Asian-American studies. He has also helped organize four Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies conferences at Binghamton and a conference for the school’s Comparative Literature Graduate Conference.

Excellence in Research 

Olga Blomgren
Doctoral student Olga Blomgren’s research has long sought to bring the works of Caribbean poets and authors into the mainstream literary discussion. Her dissertation on the works of Puerto Rican author Rosario Ferré and Haitian novelist Edwidge Danticat shows the importance of language in literature and how it relates to the historical questions of identity. Along with her fellowship and teaching experience at Binghamton, Blomgren has earned a fellowship with the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Department of Black Studies.

Jenn Dum
Doctoral student Jenn Dum’s work shows her dedication to social justice in education. Dum has presented at over a dozen conferences and received a Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Teaching. She teaches four undergraduate courses at Binghamton and has received three fellowships for her work in education and ethics. Her research also looks at analyzing and evaluating issues in education, such as school discipline policies, the human right to education and post-migration education.

Kiera James
Doctoral student Kiera James’ research into adolescent psychology has been published in seven journals and she has six additional manuscripts under review and four in preparation. She has served as a graduate clinician at the Binghamton University Psychological Clinic and the Binghamton Anxiety Clinic and as a diagnostician at Binghamton’s Mood Disorders Institute. James most recently acted as the instructor of record for three University psychology courses and worked on four projects covering stress, depression and anxiety in women and children.

Shaojie Jiang
The world of science is always changing, and doctoral student Shaojie Jiang’s research into supercrystal structure has him involved in one of the most “hot topics” in the nanoscience world. Jiang has authored or co-authored six papers, presented at the Materials Research Society Fall 2017 meeting in Boston, and has served as an instructor in Binghamton University’s General Physics Lab.

Nusrat Jimi
Doctoral student and Bangladesh native Nusrat Jimi’s work in the Department of Economics addresses important social and financial issues in South Asia and Africa. The study she co-authored on educational policy in Tanzania was published in the celebrated journal Applied Economics. Nusrat designed the study of the Bangladeshi school lottery system and collected the data herself from school administrators, teachers and students. Her study of micro-finance and agriculture is especially relevant today given the need for farmers’ access to non-traditional forms of financial services in the Global South, a metaphor for underdeveloped countries.

Sarah King
Doctoral student Sarah King’s research into celebrity anti-war activism provides a look at a fascinating intersection of political and popular culture. King’s dissertation, which features firsthand interviews with musician Pete Seeger and actors Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, has received both internal support from Binghamton University and external grants from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library. King has served as an instructor at SUNY Brockport, Alfred University and Binghamton University. Her work on historian and author Gerda Lerner was published in the Journal of Women’s History.

Kathryn Lanza
Doctoral student Kathryn Lanza is dedicated to helping others, from mentoring undergraduate Psi Chi students and those in the Bridges to Baccalaureate program to her time as an instructor for 300-level psychology courses. Lanza helped her fellow psychology researchers seek funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke on a brand-new topic, has published five manuscripts and has given over a dozen conference presentations.

Duong Le
Doctoral student Duong Le has published four working papers and given six conference presentation in his six years at Binghamton University. His work has examined the impacts of micro-finance and environmental disasters in India and Vietnam and he is praised as an effective teacher by students in his Labor Economics and Industrial Relations class. Le’s paper on the Formosa disaster was produced in less than two months and his findings in his paper, “Infrastructure Grants and Microenterprises,” produced important conclusions about the effectiveness of infrastructure spending.

Zachary Lebens-Higgins
Doctoral student Zachary Lebens-Higgins’ work is helping to make a greener future. His research into improving the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries was published in the Chemistry of Materials journal, and an essay published during his first year in the PhD program has been cited by over 50 other researchers. Lebens-Higgins has also given several presentations on oxide-coated cathodes and even chaired a session on the subject at the 60th annual Electronic Materials Conference in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Nathan Lipps
Creative writing instructor and doctoral student Nathan Lipps’ work has been published in literary and poetry magazines across the country, including the Best New Poets anthology. His work examines life on an American farm and the nuances of the rural lifestyle. Lipp’s first book, the body as passage, is scheduled to be published this year by Open Palm Press. 

Yancy Luan
During his time at Binghamton University, Yancy Luan’s work with advanced nano-alloy fabrication has been published in the Materials Research Society’s Advances journal. Luan and advisor James Fang have also filed a patent on mass-producible nickel catalysts. With a focus on creating something new, he is the first person to enable carbon monoxide to etch the Pt-Ni nanocatalysts by extracting the Ni-component through a gaseous mixture. He has presented at the American Chemical Society’s Northeast Regional Meeting and the Materials Research Society conference.

Maedeh Mohammadifar
Doctoral student Maedeh Mohammadifar’s work has exciting implications for the world of renewable energy. Her work, including her research into a blood-glucose monitoring patch, has been published in journals such as Micromachines and Renewable Energy. Her research into bio-batteries and green technology has also been published in Advanced Science News, which was then reported on by ScienceDaily, Techxplore, Newswise and others. Mohammadifar scored among the top .01 percent of students to take the University Entrance Exam in her native Iran.

Roberto Ortiz
Doctoral student and Clark Fellowship alumni Roberto Ortiz’s award-winning work on the environment and politics has been published in two peer-reviewed journals and presented at over a dozen conferences. Ortiz’s focus on the history of capitalism, global inequalities and environmental degradation are especially relevant today with the current global focus on environmental preservation and inequality. His dissertation and his paper, “Late Capitalism Unbound,” were given awards by the Binghamton University Department of Sociology and the American Sociological Association, respectively. Ortiz has served as both an adjunct professor in two departments at Binghamton University and as an advising associate at Harpur College.

Mark Pallay
Doctoral student Mark Pallay works to help create the next wave of technological advances. His understanding of both theory and practice has allowed his work to be published in the prestigious journal, Applied Physics Letters. Pallay has twice presented his work at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ International Design Engineering Technical conference. His research interests include electrostatic levitation and micro-electro-mechanical systems. 

Kevin Revier
Doctoral student Kevin Revier’s work has covered many of today’s most relevant social issues, from drug laws to race and justice. His current work on the opioid crisis is especially relevant for communities like Binghamton dealing with such issues. His essays have been published in the journals Contemporary Justice Review and Crime, Media, Culture. In addition, Revier has given nearly two dozen research presentations at conferences.

Shabnam Sabounchi
Shabnam Sabounchi already had an impressive career as a public health scholar in her native Iran when she came to Binghamton University in 2016. Sabounchi, a dental surgeon, has given over a dozen presentations and published over a dozen peer-reviewed papers in her career. While her research has covered a diverse array of public health issues, her current focus on the opioid epidemic has earned Sabounchi a grant from Binghamton University’s Poverty and Inequality Transdisciplinary Working Group.

Zohreh Soltani
Zohreh Soltani’s experience as a trained architect has been invaluable to her current work at Binghamton University. Her dissertation on the impact of the Iranian Revolution on its capital city’s architecture draws on political science, urban studies, history and art. Soltani has published five articles and given seven professional presentations, in addition to designing and/or teaching almost a dozen courses at Binghamton. She is currently a Dissertation Diversity Fellow at Ithaca College.

Kellam Throgmorton
Doctoral candidate Kellam Throgmorton’s extensive work on early Native American societies has been presented at universities and archaeological societies across the country. Throgmorton is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant, and is currently researching the politics and landscapes of the native peoples in Chaco Canyon, N. M. As an archaeologist, he has also written about current affairs such as the dispute over the Bears Ears National Monument. In 2017, Throgmorton led a symposium at the Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Haifeng Wang
Doctoral student Haifeng Wang’s research may one day help improve medical diagnoses and machine learning. Over four years as a research associate at Binghamton, Wang has investigated topics like 3D medical imaging, manufacturing technology and using data analysis in pharmacies. He has also chaired sessions at two Industrial and Systems Engineering Research Conferences and been on five ad hoc review committees.

Shanana Yan
Doctoral candidate Shanana Yan’s extensive work goes beyond research. Yan has served as a teaching assistant for four years at Binghamton University and for three years at Xiamen University in her native China. Yan has submitted four patent applications for her work with nanomaterials and synthesis, and published over a dozen academic papers. She has also given over a dozen presentations at chemical society conferences, including several on her work with wearable biosensors. Yan’s presentation at the American Chemical Society’s Fall 2018 meeting made her a finalist in the ACS’s Graduate Student Award Competition.

Siyin Zhao
Doctoral student Siyin Zhao hopes his research will help the world better understand the ancient culture of his native China. Zhao’s work aims to use the history of the global superpower to understand it today, through ritual. He has written extensively about ancient China and has presented at both the Rochester Institute of Technology and Columbia University.

Jian Zhou
Inspired by hair-based flow receivers in small animals, doctoral student Jian Zhou works on miniaturized flow sensing. With the guidance of his advisor, Distinguished Professor Ronald Miles, Zhou has created a flow sensor made from spider silk that can detect airflow in the infrasound to ultrasound range. Zhou has first-authored three papers and holds an international patent application. He has also given various presentations in Massachusetts, Illinois and China.

Excellence in Service/Outreach

Mohammed Rabiu Abubakari
Doctoral candidate Mohammed Rabiu Abubakari brings his international perspective and background to his work on food deserts in Binghamton. The Ghana native  has been a key member of the Binghamton community since beginning his master’s program in 2015. In just four years he has served on the Binghamton University Town and Gown Advisory Board, the Binghamton Food Steering Committee and Binghamton University’s Poverty and Inequality Working Group. He has given presentations on food deserts, education and urbanization at Binghamton and Kent State. His paper was awarded first prize in 2016 at Kent State’s Race, Ethnicity and Place Conference.

Victoria Brown
Doctoral candidate Victoria Brown’s position as a labor organizer within the Graduate Student Employees Union has allowed her to keep a pulse on issues affecting workers in both Binghamton and rural Spain, where Brown completed two international university certificates. Her doctoral dissertation on austerity, female migrants and industrial agriculture in the Andalusia region of Spain provides a unique look at the intersection of immigration, gender and workers’ rights. Brown served as a member of the negotiating team that helped the Communication Workers of America Local 1104 establish a new contract after six years without one.

Daimys García
Doctoral student Daimys García’s work uses literature to discuss gender and race and shows a dedication to inclusion and to a deepening understanding of the human experience. She furthered her interest in community-building during her time as president and secretary of the Comparative Literature Graduate Student Organization. Integrating her academic interest with her need to serve others is the driving force behind her involvement in the Binghamton Poetry Project, which aims to teach youth and adults how to write and read creatively. 

Frank Tolbert
Master’s student Frank Tolbert’s background in urban planning allowed him to develop a detailed understanding of issues affecting Broome County families. His research helped create reports for the county Department of Social Services, and his findings from the Johnson City Redevelopment Project were presented at the Race, Ethnicity, and Place ninth edition conference. Tolbert, a Clark Fellow, is also both a graduate research assistant and teaching assistant, as well as the president of the Geography Graduate Student Organization.

Vanessa Wuerthner
Doctoral student Vanessa Wuerthner is dedicated to increasing public interest in science, especially in children. Wuerthner has extensive involvement with the local Binghamton community, including the Roberson Museum and Science Center and the local Boards of Cooperative Educational Services. Her Gemma Jones Visits Nuthatch Hollow children’s book is currently in review for publication, and lesson plans she has created have been used in dozens of local high schools.