Milliken Announces Presidential Graduate Fellowships
University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken has announced the eight 2008-09 recipients of Presidential Graduate Fellowships. These prestigious fellowships honor NU graduate students – four students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, two at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and two at the University of Nebraska at Omaha – on the basis of high scholastic performance, personal accomplishment and innovative research projects. This year, fellowships are presented in cancer research, commutative algebra and communication, chemistry and electrical engineering, psychology and public administration.

"Presidential Graduate Fellowships allow us to give students who are conducting extraordinary research and scholarly activity the opportunity to concentrate their efforts and complete their graduate work," Milliken said. "We are fortunate to have a level of private support that recognizes and rewards excellence in student scholarship." Fellows each receive an annual stipend provided through the University of Nebraska Foundation.

This year's Presidential Graduate Fellows are:

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  1. Christine Rittenour, Lincoln, a PhD candidate in Communication Studies. Rittenour’s field of expertise is family and interpersonal relationships, and her dissertation deals with models of communicative and relational factors in mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships. She received an Othmer Fellowship in 2005-2006, and has won six Top Paper awards as a graduate student. A graduate of The Pennsylvania State University, Rittenour earned her master's degree at West Virginia University.
  2. Silvia Saccon, Lincoln, a PhD candidate in Mathematics. Saccon received the Sue Wilson Fellowship in 2007-08 and is currently a graduate teaching assistant whose interest lies within the field of commutative algebra. In 2005, she received the department’s Outstanding Qualifier Exam Award. Saccon participates in the Professional Development Seminar and the student-run Commutative Algebra Seminar and serves on the organizing committee of the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics. She earned her master’s degree at University of Padova, Italy.
  3. Nan Shao, Lincoln, a PhD candidate in Chemistry. Shao is a researcher in the field of computational chemistry, a branch of theoretical physical chemistry that uses the power of modern computers and parallel processing to determine the structure, stability and other physical properties of chemical systems. Shao’s research has been published in both the Journal of Physical Chemistry and The Journal of Chemical Physics and she has instructed classes in Kinetics, Quantum Chemistry and Chemical Thermodynamics. Shao earned her master’s degree at the University of Science and Technology of China.
  4. Xiaokang Shen, Lincoln, a PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering. Shen is currently involved in the research of new applications and ideas for laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), a technique that allows for elemental analysis in solid, liquid and gaseous samples. His focus on the development of techniques to improve LIBS detection sensitivity and accuracy has resulted in four first-authored journal papers, three conference papers and several coauthored journal papers. He has presented at the International Congress on Applications of Lasers and Electro-Optics and currently researches in the Laser-Assisted Nano Engineering lab at UNL. Shen earned his master’s degree at Fudan University, China.
University of Nebraska Medical Center
  1. Matthew Boehm, Omaha, a PhD candidate in Cancer Research. Boehm is completing his research on the role of KSR proteins in the regulation of cellular metabolism and energy homeostasis. Boehm has participated in the Cancer Research Graduate Program journal club and attended the Cancer Short Course in the summer of 2007. He participated in the Midwest Scientific Biomedical Research Forum in 2006 and was awarded the Nebraska Center for Cellular Signaling Student Assistantship for 2004-05. Boehm is a graduate of St. Olaf College.
  2. Jaspreet Vasir, Cleveland, a PhD candidate in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Vasir’s research involves development of biodegradable nano-sized drug carriers (nanoparticles) for delivering therapeutics, especially recombinant proteins, to target cells. Her dissertation project was funded by a pre-doctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association and is focused towards developing non-stent approaches for the inhibition of post-angioplasty restenosis. Vasir received the Program of Excellence Graduate Assistanceship, and the 2007 Student Research Award from the American Association of Indian Pharmaceutical Scientists. A graduate of University of Delhi, Vasir earned her master’s degree at the National Institution of Pharmaceutical Education and Research in India.
University of Nebraska at Omaha
  1. Christian Janousek, Omaha, a master’s degree candidate in the local government concentration of Public Administration. Janousek’s accomplishments include gathering pertinent research on a cost-benefit analysis for a city walking/biking trail and designing a proposal to measure effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints. Janousek is also a member of the Nebraska City/County Management Association and a recipient of the John F. Kennedy Peace Scholarship. His final paper as an undergraduate, “The Proper Role of the Supreme Court: Judicial Restraint v. Judicial Activism,” was published in Hot Papers 2006: The Best Academic Writing at Wayne State College. Janousek earned his bachelor’s degree from Wayne State College.
  2. Joan Deffeyes, Omaha, a PhD candidate in Psychology. Since 2005, Deffeyes has been a Graduate Research Assistant with the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Biomechanics lab at UNO. Her current research currently analysis on infant sitting postural data, which can then be used to compare infants at risk for cerebral palsy with infants who are typically developing. Deffeye’s extensive knowledge of MatLab, a mathematical software product, has allowed her to develop and teach a class on the program. Deffeyes, who holds a patent, is a master swimmer and speaks Russian, earned a master’s degree from Stanford University and a master’s and PhD from Northwestern University.


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