Recipients of prestigious Presidential Graduate Fellowships announced

September 19, 2019

University of Nebraska Interim President Susan Fritz has announced the six recipients of 2019-20 Presidential Graduate Fellowships. The prestigious fellowships are awarded to a select group of NU graduate students each year on the basis of high academic performance and personal accomplishment. Fellows receive an annual stipend made available through the University of Nebraska Foundation that allows them to pursue their studies full-time.

This year’s fellowships are awarded to two students each at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska Medical Center. Recipients are pursuing advanced degrees in genetics, cell biology and anatomy; medical sciences; psychology; public administration; biological sciences; and electrical and computer engineering.

“Our Presidential Graduate Fellows are among the best students at the University of Nebraska,” Fritz said. “They are accomplished scholars, inspiring mentors and outstanding representatives of their campuses – exactly the kind of young people who will lead our state forward. We are grateful for the private support that allows these talented students to devote themselves fully to their studies.”

This year’s Presidential Graduate Fellows are:

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Colton Watts, of Cookeville, Tennessee, a Ph.D. student in biological sciences. Watts is already an accomplished researcher with published journal articles and numerous presentations under his belt. His research focuses on the evolutionary ecology of behavior and life history decisions. His early work at UNL centered on the evolution of daily rhythms. His study comparing predicted rhythms of foraging behavior to around-the-clock observations of individuals foraging in their natural habitat was the first to demonstrate that the daily rhythm of a terrestrial organism closely resembles the rhythm expected to evolve by natural selection. After finishing his Ph.D., Watts would like to pursue a post-doctoral fellowship and continue on a path to be a full-time researcher, instructor and mentor. His bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from East Tennessee State University.

Josue Campos do Prado, of Joinville, Brazil, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering. Prado is interested in sustainable energy and has worked on renewable energy projects in his native Brazil. At UNL, he is working toward his goal of becoming a scientist who will develop sustainable energy solutions that have the potential to improve the reliability, resilience and flexibility of the energy industry. Prado participates in Brazil’s Science without Borders program, designed to impact the future of sustainable energy in Brazil. He’s been recognized for his academic work and was recently awarded a research grant from the American Public Power Association and Lincoln Electric System to study combined solar and wind energy bidding in electricity markets.

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Nadine Maliakkal, of Pittsford, New York, a master’s degree student in psychology. Maliakkal plans to continue her graduate studies with a Ph.D. at UNO after she completes her master’s degree. Her bachelor’s degree in psychology is from the University of New Hampshire; after earning her B.A., she worked full-time as a research assistant at Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence. Maliakkal’s hands-on experience while studying at UNO includes human resources consulting work for two Omaha healthcare organizations. As a graduate research assistant, Maliakkal has been involved with research on workplace culture, team effectiveness, leadership, creativity and innovation. She already has several journal publications and presentations in her graduate career as well as awards and honors for her scholastic achievements.

Morgan Vogel, of Berea, Ohio, a Ph.D. student in public administration. Vogel is already turning her scholarship into research for the academic community. Earlier this year, she and colleagues contributed a book chapter on the topic of mobility management and sustainable economic growth through public transit. As part of her Ph.D. program at UNO, Vogel has been involved in several projects including K-12 data compilation, project management associated with mobility management for rural transit, rural transit research and participation with the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency’s Coordinated Transit Subcommittee. She received the Outstanding Student Award from the University of Dayton’s Master of Public Administration program, where she earned her MPA and bachelor’s degree in political science.

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Megan Perry, of West Point, Nebraska, a Ph.D. student in genetics, cell biology and anatomy. Perry is already an experienced anatomy teacher at the undergraduate and graduate level, most recently in the neuroanatomy lab at UNMC. She has been a research assistant at Doane College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in biology, and at UNMC, where she completed a master’s degree in medical anatomy. In her Ph.D. program, she is in a teaching track in medical anatomical sciences education. As a researcher, Perry is focused on DNA protein crosslink repair. Crosslinks are lesions that can disrupt DNA metabolic function and lead to genome instability and mutations. Her research explores a key repair enzyme that could play a role in cancer therapies.

Rashelle Hoffman, of Holdrege, Nebraska, a Ph.D. student in medical sciences at the Munroe-Meyer Institute. After completing a bachelor’s degree in exercise science at the University of Sioux Falls and a doctor of physical therapy degree at UNMC, Hoffman is now pursuing her Ph.D. in rehabilitation science at UNMC, where she hopes to graduate next year. Her studies have taken her to the Munroe-Meyer Institute at UNMC, where she has been engaged with data collection and data analysis for a variety of research studies. She also serves as a geriatric physical therapist in skilled nursing, outpatient and long-term care settings and mentors physical therapy residents in a Creighton University residency program where she completed her residency. A recipient of numerous awards and honors, Hoffman also has several peer reviewed published manuscripts.

Media Contact:
Melissa Lee
Director of Communications,
University of Nebraska