President Hank Bounds announces prestigious graduate fellowship recipients

July 24, 2017

University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds announced today the six recipients of 2017-18 Presidential Graduate Fellowships. The prestigious fellowships are awarded to a select group of NU graduate students each year on the basis of high scholastic performance and personal accomplishment. Fellows receive a stipend provided through the University of Nebraska Foundation that allows them to pursue their studies full-time.

This year, fellowships are presented to two students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, two from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and two from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The recipients are pursuing advanced degrees in exercise science, English, pharmaceutical sciences, biochemistry and molecular biology, sociology, and child, youth and family studies.

“Students who receive Presidential Graduate Fellowships are among our best and brightest. They are outstanding ambassadors of the University of Nebraska and I’m certain we’ll see great things from them in the future,” Bounds said. “We’re fortunate to enjoy a level of private support that permits these talented students to fully devote themselves to their studies and research.”

“Students who receive Presidential Graduate Fellowships are among our best and brightest. They are outstanding ambassadors of the University of Nebraska and I’m certain we’ll see great things from them in the future,” Bounds said. “We’re fortunate to enjoy a level of private support that permits these talented students to fully devote themselves to their studies and research.”

This year’s Presidential Graduate Fellows are:

University of Nebraska at Omaha:

Jenny Kent

Jenny Kent, of Enfield, England, a Ph.D. student in exercise science/biomechanics. Kent earned her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Nottingham and M.S. in biomedical engineering from the University of Surrey, both in England. She developed an interest in researching lower limb prosthetics while working at a U.K. military rehabilitation center with individuals who had undergone traumatic amputation. Drawing on concepts from her coursework in mathematical chaos and motor control, she is specifically interested in better understanding how prosthesis users adapt and control their movement, in order to inform prosthetic prescription, design and rehabilitation techniques. Since arriving at UNO she has worked on a number of projects investigating locomotion and fall risk, and coordinated a team of undergraduate and graduate students working on NIH-funded research exploring balance interventions for people with amputation.

Kristine Langley Mahler

Kristine Langley Mahler, of Ralston, a master’s student in English. Mahler is currently conducting research, funded by a Graduate Research and Creative Activity grant, on immigration and inhabitation on native land through the lens of her French-Canadian ancestors. As an associate nonfiction editor for both Pithead Chapel and Profane, two online journals, she reviews dozens of submissions each month to write feedback and select pieces for publication. At the University of Iowa, where Mahler earned her bachelor’s degree, she was editor in chief of earthwords, the university’s undergraduate literary journal. Mahler has published a number of nonfiction pieces and has won awards for her writing, including Crab Orchard Review's Rafael Torch Award in Literary Nonfiction. Mahler carries a 4.0 GPA.

University of Nebraska Medical Center:

Fei Yu

Fei Yu, of China, a Ph.D. student in pharmaceutical sciences. Fei Yu’s primary research interest is in the development of polymers for drug delivery systems. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southeast University in Nanjing, China, and did graduate work at the University of Houston in Texas. At UNMC, she has explored polymers to deliver drugs and genes for cancer treatment under the mentorship of Professor David Oupický. She has published several research papers and will continue her research on combination drug delivery based on polymers.

Brandon Griess

Brandon Griess, of Hartington, a Ph.D. student in biochemistry and molecular biology. Griess’ research focuses on the interaction between breast cancer cells and the surrounding normal cells, especially a subset of immune cells, called macrophages. He studies treatments used to activate the macrophages to target and kill cancer cells. Griess earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At UNMC, his research has received support from the National Institutes of Health and UNMC’s competitive graduate student assistantship program. He has received UNMC’s prestigious Berndt Graduate Student Travel Award, an Excellence in Oral Presentation award, and an Outstanding Performance Stipend. Griess has served as a teaching assistant and personal tutor at UNL.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

Brandi Woodell

Brandi Woodell, of Vivian, Louisiana, a Ph.D. student in sociology. Woodell studies how factors such as family support, community involvement and social discrimination affect the health disparities between sexual minorities and heterosexuals. She is especially interested in contributing new knowledge and insights about the health of “hidden” minority populations. For example, her dissertation aims to identify key resources available and missing from the lives of sexual minorities and heterosexuals in rural areas in order to develop strategies for better health-related outcomes. Woodell has been published in peer-reviewed publications and has given presentations at local, regional and national conferences. Her goal is to have a career in academia.

Aileen S. Garcia-Avanzado

Aileen S. Garcia-Avanzado, of the Philippines, a Ph.D. student in child, youth and family studies. As a teacher in her native Philippines, Garcia witnessed firsthand how important education is to improving lives and fighting poverty. Her experience there solidified her interest in investigating how psychological and educational concepts can be integrated in order to promote higher achievement among low-income children. At Nebraska, Garcia has worked with a range of fellow students and faculty in teaching, research and extension in order to apply an interdisciplinary lens to her studies and gain a broad understanding of how poverty impacts family dynamics and child development. She has co-authored papers, led research projects, and is currently working on her dissertation on parental involvement in education among low-income families in the Philippines.


Media Contact
Melissa Lee
Director of Communications University of Nebraska