July 13, 2024
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2017 Graduate Excellence Award winners

30 students receive honors for teaching, research, service and outreach

President Harvey Stenger salutes the recipients at the Graduate Excellence Awards ceremony on March 28. President Harvey Stenger salutes the recipients at the Graduate Excellence Awards ceremony on March 28.
President Harvey Stenger salutes the recipients at the Graduate Excellence Awards ceremony on March 28. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.


Hannah Cronk – Chemistry

Hannah Cronk’s passion for chemistry helps to encourage and inspire her students. She believes that teaching chemistry provides an opportunity to connect science to real life, instill wonder, and motivate future generations. Her students say her enthusiasm, dependability and initiative set the standard for all other teaching assistants and she is a great mentor who is able to make the learning process easier. She implements a variety of teaching approaches that are beneficial to all learning types, including lectures with slides,written explanations, diagrams/charts, and practice problems for major concepts. She has served as head teaching assistant for General Chemistry; assistant coordinator for Go Green, a two-week intensive summer program for rising sixth graders; and as instructor of record for General Chemistry. She received the Lois D. Mackey award for teaching in her first year in the Chemistry Department for her ability to challenge students in a no-nonsense, supportive way.

Chelsea Gibson – History

Teaching is extremely important to Chelsea Gibson, who is known for teaching a variety of classes, developing her own pedagogical style, and mastering teaching in a number of fields. She has been a teaching assistant for Imperial Russian History and Foundations of America. She has worked as a language resource specialist for the Languages Across the Curriculum program for three courses: Borderlands of Eastern Europe, International Business, and History of Soviet Russia. She created and taught Russian Revolution through American Eyes and has been instructor of record for several other courses including Modern America Civilization. She believes the purpose of teaching is to forge connections and help students think more about themselves and the world they inhabit. Colleagues describe her as lively, warm, innovative, creative, effective, a superb communicator and she has the ability to create a perfect learning environment. Students say she is attentive,respectful and an inspiration to them.

Alexander Haruk – Chemistry

Alexander Haruk is a born teacher. His passion for learning shines through everything he does. Whether he is teaching a team of 50 teaching assistants or spending hours with freshmen students during office hours, he is patient and kind. Truly committed to being the best instructor he can be, believing in the premise that everyone is an adult, he treats all of his students that way. Haruk was instrumental in development of the Chemistry Department’s live-streamed online “office hours” through the Center for Learning and Teaching, he is dependable, conscientious, and demonstrates strong subject mastery. He has been a teaching assistant, head teaching assistant, instructional assistant, and instructor of record for General Chemistry, and has also been a teaching assistant for Instrumental Methods of Analysis and Experimental Physical Chemistry. His students note he is knowledgeable and compassionate, has a sense of humor and is always a willing guide for them when they need help.

Marcus Heiligenthal – English

Believing that the best learning environments are those where students learn from each other as much as from the instructor, Marcus Heiligenthal creates a classroom that is inclusive and dynamic. Students describe his teaching as “free-flowing, open and cool,” and note that they feel motivated, comfortable and free to speak their opinions. He has been a guest lecturer, a teaching assistant for two undergraduate courses and instructor of record for five different undergraduate courses, including Writing 111 for freshmen and Writing 101 in the summer Educational Opportunity Program. He is confident and well prepared in the classroom and asks questions that probe for answers. His enthusiasm for the material and his students is infectious, creating an environment that welcomes participation. Called a stern grader by students, he is also praised by them for his passion, his willingness to spend extra time with them, and his ability to relate dense material to relevant things in students’ lives.

Sina Khanmohammadi – Systems Science and Industrial Engineering

Sina Khanmohammadi is a dedicated educator who truly cares about students’ learning and success. He has been a teaching assistant for two undergraduate and four graduate courses, and developed and taught two courses – one for the Department of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering and one for the School of Management – as instructor of record. He taught an additional course online during the 2016 Summer Session. He utilizes four elements in his teaching – experiential learning, Socratic questioning, a holistic perspective and positivity – striving always to understand every student’s individual goals, needs and interests to help them gain confidence in their skills and abilities. He puts students’ learning first, paying careful attention to detail and providing feedback, coming fully prepared with both a lecture and an in-class activity. Warm and friendly in demeanor, he is always available to meet with students after class to help them understand concepts and written assignments.

Yelena Khvatskaya – Psychology

Yelena Khvatskaya is deeply immersed in teaching at Binghamton, welcoming assignments as a teaching assistant and seeking out teaching assignments whenever possible. Though she is a clinical science PhD candidate, she has been instructor of record for three different courses – Cognitive Psychology, Research Methods and Introduction to Psychology – teaching material often considered beyond the interest domain of clinical students. She has also been a teaching assistant for five courses and sees the experience of teaching as core to her identity as a clinical psychologist. Her goals are to teach students to think critically, to be able to analyze and apply information they are given, to help them engage in discussion and present their ideas, and to teach them how to write effectively for a given audience. Her enthusiasm for the material is spreading to her students, allowing them to become comfortable asking questions and become engrossed in resulting discussions.

Jung Yeun Kim – Accounting

Jung Yeun Kim’s success in teaching is due in great part to her wealth of experience in auditing and finance. Her professional experience working for a public accounting firm and global financial institutions provides her a good foundation for reducing the gap between accounting theory and practice, enabling her to better connect with students. She has been instructor of record for Cost Accounting and Financial Accounting courses, including two preparations for new courses. She emphasizes the importance of communication to her students through use of humor and a variety of teaching techniques, making learning enjoyable and motivating students to excel. Students say she is able to present difficult concepts with ease and clarity, and always makes herself available to them when they have questions. They also commend her for providing opportunities to help them grow professionally, bringing in guest lecturers with industry knowledge, and teaching them the importance of networking.

Angela Runciman – Comparative Literature

Angela Runciman is a bright and committed scholar whose teaching is an extension of her impressive scholarship. She is in control of the material, energetic, accessible and capable of eliciting excellent responses from her students. She covers material in a creative fashion and guides students attentively in the history of literature as well as the difficult territory of literary critics and theory. She has been a teaching assistant and instructor for three courses at Binghamton: literature and Society on the topic of Modern Women Writers; Benjamin Woolf/George Eliot and Modern Women in Literature and Film. She has also served as an adjunct lecturer for the Department of English, teaching British Literature 2, Horror Fiction/Film and Literature and Medicine. Her student-centered teaching allows students to practice listening and appreciating others’ ideas as they share their writing. Students commend her for in-class discussions that play a pivotal role in their understanding of the literature.

Nicole Wagner – Art History

Nicole Wagner is a stellar teacher with the ability to understand the material and clearly convey its substance and significance to a diverse range of students. She works relentlessly to engage students in the course material and to equip them with the skills necessary to succeed. She builds her classroom philosophy on the premise that the most effective instrument a teacher has is passion for the material. She has been a teaching assistant and guest lecturer for Renaissance and Baroque, Drama of the Baroque, Introduction to Art History, and Early Modern London, and instructor of record for Sex and Gender in Renaissance Art. With a profound level of commitment to pedagogy, she has developed a loyal following of students because she takes an interest in them and their successes, employs different strategies in the classroom and is able to explain difficult concepts and themes to students with various learning styles.

Matthew Wahila – Physics

Whether in the classroom or the laboratory, teaching introductory or advanced courses, Matthew Wahila excels at inspiring his students and instilling in them a passion for learning. He strives not only to teach science, but also use science to rigorously evaluate and improve histeaching methods. Additionally, he has also been integral to the development of the Freshman Research Immersion Smart Energy program. Using state-of-the-art research on active learning teachingmethodologies, he has helped craft an engaging curriculum that uses hands-on, authentic research activities as a tool to better teach advanced physics concepts to undergraduate students. He has been a teaching assistant and a mentor for the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates. He exhibited exceptional skills as he taught materials fabrication, instrumental analytical techniques, and advised teams of freshman students working on projects. Students note that he was always able to simplify difficult concepts, so even non-physics majors were able to understand the material.


Stephen Ambrozik – Chemistry

Stephen Ambrozik is among the smartest and most deeply involved his nominator has ever worked with. His research focuses on fundamental and applied electrochemistry. He has six publications in high-impact factor journals, including three as first author, and has presented at numerous regional, national, and field-specific meetings. He was awarded a travel grant to attend the 225th Electrochemical Society meeting, due to the importance of his work. In 2014, he was selected to co-chair the Gordon Research Seminar in electrodeposition, a recognition by his peers that demonstrates his ability to plan and execute a two-day seminar for graduate students. He was also recently recognized by the National Science Foundation Chemistry Division as the recipient of an Agency Priority Goals Graduate Education Funding Supplement to allow him to complete an internship at the National Institute of Standards and Technology with one of the leaders in the field of electrodeposition and interfacial electrochemistry.

Minyoung Cheong – Organizational Studies/Leadership

Minyoung Cheong is described as extremely bright and very goal directed. He studies leadership, empowerment, autonomy and paradoxical counter-theoretical mechanisms potentially embedded in various organizational phenomena. He has published five peer-reviewed articles in journals including Leadership Quarterly and Group & Organization Management, and has a sixth conditionally accepted to Leadership Quarterly with five more in progress. He has won travel awards to attend two major conferences and has presented 14 papers at top national and international conferences such as the Academy of Management, Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology and Southern Management Association. His dissertation, titled “Empowering Leadership: A Comprehensive Perspective and Tests with Multiple Methods and Studies,” pursues a holistic view and methodological rigor for leadership within a multi-level perspective. His nominators note that his work has strong conceptual foundations and methodological rigor, even as it deals with complex paradoxical, interdisciplinary and/or multi-level issues in theory and in methods.

Jessica Derleth – History

Jessica Derleth’s work places her among the top students in Binghamton University’s PhD program in women’s history. She has won numerous grants for travel, professional development and research from Binghamton University. In 2015, she was awarded a Mellon Research Fellowship to conduct research at the Virginia Historical Society, and a Helen L. Bing Fellowship to work at the Huntington Library. In 2016, she won the Carol Gold Graduate Student Conference Paper Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians. She has published several book reviews and encyclopedia entries, as well as 11 “teaching tools” essays for the Women and Social Movements website project. The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era has asked her to revise and resubmit an article, and the New York History journal has invited her to contribute an article. Another article will appear in the New York State Museum’s catalogue, Votes for Women: Celebrating New York State’s Suffrage Centennial.

Dmitry Evtyushkin – Computer Science

Dmitry Evtyushkin’s research focuses on modifications to computer architecture to increase the security of computer systems and he has made significant contributions to this relevant field. He proposed and evaluated a new system for creating isolated execution environments thatan protect user’s secrets even in the presence of potentially compromised operating systems and other system software layers. He also discovered several vulnerabilities in today’s processors and proposed solutions to mitigate them in future designs. His work has been reportedon widely by technical news outlets. He has published six papers, all as first author, including three in the foremost conferences in the area of computer architecture and security, including the IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Microarchitecture and the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, and two in leading journals IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing and ACM Transactions on Architecture and Code Optimization. He currently has another paper under review.

Joseph Hall – Psychology

Co-author on seven peer-reviewed publications, including two as first author, Joseph Hall studies the neurobiology of learning and memory, and specifically how it can be modulated by the environment and through pharmacological techniques to attain greater understanding of the biological underpinnings that may eventually lead to the treatment of memory disorders. His dissertation work is critical to the understanding of how exercise improves and rescues brain function that can lead to the recovery of cognitive performance in the elderly and those diagnosed with neurodegenerative disease. He has 14 conference posters and abstracts to his credit, as well as nine presentations, and was invited to the Universidade Federal De Minas Gerais (UFMG) of Brazil to team teach a course in animal models of neurological disorders during the 6th annual UFMG Neurosciences Symposium. He presents his research annually to the department and at the Society for Neuroscience meeting, and is a leader and mentor in the lab.

Tian He – Systems Science and Industrial Engineering

Tian He’s research focuses on production and manufacturing systems optimization, such as surface mount technology placement machine optimization, semiconductor testing job dispatching and capacity planning. She works to find novel techniques for modeling, analysis, improvement and control of production and manufacturing systems. She has eight refereed publications in journals including Applied Soft Computing, Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing, and the International Journal of Advanced Mechatronics Systems, including five as first author. She has five conference publications as first author including at two International Conferences on Flexible Automation and Intelligent Manufacturing. She has also made seven technical presentations at conferences and industrial project meetings. Her research background is a global one. Her dissertation on printed circuit board optimization began with a research project funded by Samsung Techwin in South Korea. Currently, she is studying how to optimize planning and dispatching processes for Analog Devices Inc. at General Trias in the Philippines.

Victor Kariuki – Chemistry

Victor Kariuki has a brilliant, inquisitive mind and a remarkable grasp of his research. He is the author or co-author of eight peer-reviewed scientific publications, including four as first author, and one book chapter. He has made seven conference presentations at national and international conferences, received three travel awards to attend conferences, and was awarded second best poster presentation at the 3rd Annual Conference of Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization. Kariuki is a mentor to students in the Bridges to the Baccalaureate program and others. He works to design, synthesize and characterize multifunctional poly(amic) acid-PAA polymeric membranes for novel environmental applications. Some of his current research involves the design of a paper-based sensor platform to enable farmers in developing countries to rapidly detect a fungus that infects yams, with a goal of enhancing food security. His work is at the forefront of modern polymer and analytical chemistry and employs the latest and most rigorous experimental and theoretical techniques.

Anastacia Kudinova – Psychology

Anastacia Kudinova’s research is broadly focused on the role of inflammatory processes in depression risk. Her cross-species investigation of the relation between inflammatory markers and depression received the Smader Lewin Award at the Society for Research and Psychopathology annual meeting and was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. She has received the Nancy B. Forest and L. Michael Honaker Master’s Grant for Research from the American Psychology Association for Graduate Students/American Psychology Association, the prestigious dissertation award from the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology and is a Binghamton University Clifford D. Clark Diversity Fellow. She has four first-authored papers and is co-author on five more, with four more currently under review. In 2016, she was selected to attend a 10-day boot camp, where she received intensive training in event-related potential research. She is a rare researcher who can seamlessly move between research with both human and animal models of depression.

Xue Liu – Biomedical Engineering

Xue Liu studies the mechanical properties and failure of the human skin barrier and the effect of cosmetic products on skin composition and function. She has published three peer-reviewed research articles as first author, two more as co-author, and has four more under review or in preparation. She provided preliminary data for four funded research proposals and has presented at numerous national and international conferences including the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting and the International Society for Biophysics and Imaging of the Skin, where in 2014 she received the Albert Kligman Young Investigator Scholarship. She currently chairs the forthcoming Gordon Research Seminar on barrier function of mammalian skin. In the lab, she is a mentor and helped to design and fabricate an automated environmental control system. She is skilled in particle image velocimetry, centroid tracking techniques and image processing, and her research was recently featured in Science Daily and Cosmetics Business.

Li Lu – Mechanical Engineering

With important implications for membrane biology, biofilm physiology and drug delivery, Li Lu has created a novel method for building asymmetric synthetic vesicles with customizable internal contents at high-throughput. The ability to achieve membrane asymmetry is of particular importance, since it is a feature of nearly all natural membranes, and his technique for building vesicles to explore the mechanical behavior of biological membranes could revolutionize his field. He has three first-authored publications in leading journals including Soft Matter, Lab on a Chip and Microfluidics and Nanofluidics, and three first-authored presentations at international conferences organized by the American Physical Society and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He also holds one provisional patent application. Amentor and trainer to other students in the lab, he has developed a unique skill set at the intersection of engineering and biology and deserves credit for helping to sustain and advance collaboration with colleagues in the biological sciences.

Anastasiya Lyubas – Comparative Literature

Anastasiya Lyubas stands out among her peers with impressive multilingual skills in Russian, Polish, German, Yiddish and English, and compelling research that crosses linguistic, thematic and aesthetic borders. Combining classical knowledge of literary tradition, philosophy, literary theory and linguistics, she examines the oeuvre of Debora Vogel through the relationship of language, art, politics, translation and femininity in her dissertation, “Language and Plasticity in Debora Vogel’s Poetics.” Her dissertation contributes to the fields of urban studies, literary history, Jewish studies, women’s studies and aesthetics. Lyubas is an author of numerous publications and translations including poetry and prose collections, essays and journal articles. She has made eight conference presentations and served as ad panel organizer for two national conferences. She is the recipient of the Fulbright Graduate Student Award, the IASH Research Fellowship and research fellowships from the Cornell Summer School of Criticism and Theory, the Harvard Institute for World Literature, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Benjamin Marley – Sociology

Benjamin Marley’s research utilizes a world-ecological framework to understand how petty commodity producers survive and contribute to the world economy. His areas of interest span the fields of agrarian studies, environmental sociology, and political economy. He has published three journal articles — two as sole author — including one that in 2016 earned the Terence K. Hopkins Award for best paper by a graduate student from the Section on the Political Economy of the World-System of the American Sociological Association. The article, published originally in the Journal of Agrarian Change, was also reprinted in a virtual special issue of the journal. He has also published two book reviews and has two articles under review. Presenter at more than a dozen national conferences, including twice at national meetings of the American Sociological Association, he is focusing his dissertation on family farming in the Midwest Corn Belt from the 19th century to the present.

Mert Moral – Political Science

Mert Moral is a thoughtful and gifted scholar who addresses questions related to the incentives of parties to engage in polarizing politics, as well as the way that attachment to social groupings shapes the behavior of voters. His research demonstrates that parties build their base through focusing on one or a limited set of issues, with the consequence that single-issue voters increasingly turn out to vote. His work, which engages with questions at the intersection of elections and democracy by focusing on the effect of party and party system-level factors, has resulted in four publications in journals including Political Research Quarterly, International Political Science Review, Electoral Studies and the International Journal of Electronic Governance. He also has two manuscripts under review. He has made more than a dozen presentations at national and international conferences and is a
recipient of the Elizabeth H. Nelson Prize for best paper from the World Association of Public Opinion Research.

Justin Nevin – English

Justin Nevin’s dissertation traces the development of the kindergarten movement in the United States, alongside the influence of the bildungsroman on American literature, and how the two forms shaped popular ideas about institutional and moral education for small children and adolescents in the 19th and 20th centuries. This interdisciplinary project mobilizes American education history, American cultural and literary studies and critical theory to bridge the under-theorized field of education history with American studies transnational rubrics. He has three publications including a peer-reviewed article in Interdisciplinary Literary Studies: A Journal of Criticism and Theory that analyzes the representation of debt and indebtedness in 19th- and20th- century fiction, and a book titled Is it Easy Being Green?:Writing the New College Application Essay, with two articles under review. He has made four conference presentations and has been invited to present at the 2017 International Conference on Narrative. He is also a Provost’s Summer Fellow.

Linyue Tong – Materials Science and Engineering

Linyue Tong’s research involves developing materials for use in supercapacitors and has already resulted in nine peer-reviewed publications — including three as first author — with several more papers under review or in preparation. She has also presented her research at several national conferences and meetings, including for the Materials Research Society, the American Chemical Society, and the NYBEST conference. Her studies focus on using electrically conducting organic polymers to develop improved supercapacitor electrode materials for energy storage. Through her efforts, new approaches to using conducting polymers to maximize supercapacitor behavior and new graphene-based composites have been identified. She played a leadership role in development of the Freshman Research Immersion program and works with corporate partners through the Integrated Electronics and Engineering Center (IEEC), START-UP NY, and the New York State SPIR program, serving as an outstanding problem solver and helping companies find new science and engineering materials solutions to industrial problems.

Linda Wangoh – Physics

Linda Wangoh’s research focuses on vanadium oxides for applications for energy harvesting and storage to ultimately determine device performance. She uses x-ray spectroscopic techniques to investigate the surface bulk and interfaces of the vanadium oxides. Her work has resulted in seven publications, including three as first author, in international journals including Nature Communications, Chemistry of Materials and Applied Physics Letters. She has another publication in preparation and four of her publications have been highlighted by the smart-energy community in Phys.org, Scientific Briefs by the Advanced Light Source, EFRC (Energy Frontier Research Centers) Newsletter and science highlights by the Department of Energy. She has presented five times at regional and national meetings, including the 58th Electronic Materials Conference and the American Chemical Society Northeast Regional Meeting. Her work on energy harvesting also contributed to securing a National Science Foundation grant to study vanadium oxides for clean hydrogen generation using solar water splitting.

Service and Outreach

Clara Barnhart – English

Clara Barnhart’s contributions to the needs of the community are awe-inspiring. In addition to having taught for the Writing Initiative, she currently directs the Binghamton Poetry Project and the Literati Reading Series, planning events, facilitating workshops for all age groups in Broome County and serving as a role model and mentor for local youth. She is the assistant director of the Binghamton Center for Writers, coordinating the Milton Kessler and John Gardner annual book awards, drafting its annual report, crafting all of its financial and promotional documents, and coordinating its events. An academic advisor for Harpur Academic Advising, she also works with at-risk youth beyond the campus, as a relief teacher’s aide at the Wyoming Conference Children’s Home where she provides special education services to its residents and other children in the community who struggle in public schools. She dedicates her whole self to engaging the Binghamton and surrounding communities with art and poetry.

Olga Blomgren – Comparative Literature

For Olga Blomgren, community building is a major goal. From her first day, she has built a significant record of supporting and mentoring fellow student in questions of literature and pedagogy and the development of academic professionalism. She engages in dialogue with students and faculty about writing and teaching, and in only her second semester at Binghamton organized a pedagogical workshop for graduate students. The following semester she organized a professional development working group for graduate students to discuss conference submissions, how to prepare articles for publication, how to build professional networks and how to prepare job applications. She is currently working with a group of students to launch a graduate student journal. She continuously offers support for new students and inspires others to join her in that role. Overall, her commitment to a holistic approach to academic work and her gift for dialogue are remarkably effective in building lively intellectual communities.

Steven Boyer – Chemistry

Steven Boyer has been a leader in bringing chemistry to the Binghamton campus, the local community and beyond. He has shown a passion and dedication to share chemistry by serving as a leader in the Physical Science Track of the Go Green Program, a summer program that engages rising sixth-graders. He has been vice president and president of the Graduate Chemistry Club, visiting local schools and participating in the University’s annual Day at the Oakdale Mall, demonstrating chemistry to local children. He served as undergraduate coordinator for Binghamton University’s National Science Foundation Smart Energy Research for 2014 and 2016, where he was responsible for career development activities for participants. He was also a key volunteerwhen the Chemistry Department hosted the Northeast Regional Meetings of the American Chemical Society. He has judged local science fairs and the Science Olympiad, and serves as an ambassador, recruiting graduate students to the department.

Jessica Femiani – English

Jessica Femiani is a poet who loves teaching and bringing poetry to a wide audience. As a creative writing instructor for the Binghamton Poetry Project, she has taught classes to both adults and children in Broome County. She has helped develop writing workshops for senior citizens in the community. In 2015, she was a volunteer editor for Binghamton Writes, a campus literary magazine, assisting with finalizing selections and helping first-generation students finesse their material. During the spring and summer of 2016, she instructed a children’s workshop exploring the Southern Tier’s celebrated carousel collection. In 2016, she chaired and hosted the Binghamton University International Poetry Festival, bringing poets to Binghamton from all over the world including graduate and undergraduate students as well as faculty. In less formal settings, she supports local readings and has started an informal poetry salon with other graduate students, expanding and enriching the local poetry community.

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