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Research Communications

Student Enhancement Award funds 19 proposals 

June 10, 2009

For many musicians, a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall, the world-famous concert venue in Manhattan, is a high point in their careers. That includes Ohio University undergraduate student John Connors, who recently played trombone on the storied stage with the National Collegiate Wind Ensemble.

Connors’ was one of 19 student proposals to receive an Ohio University Student Enhancement Award (SEA) this spring. The $1,900 grant covered the costs of traveling to New York City for the performance.

“I feel extremely privileged to receive an SEA, as it has allowed me to realize my dream of performing on the stage of Carnegie Hall. Receiving the award will definitely be one of
my great achievements as a student here at Ohio University,” Connors said.

Ohio University’s Council for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity granted more than $94,000 in Student Enhancement Awards this year. The awards support the research and creative activity of undergraduate, graduate and medical students.

“The Student Enhancement Awards is an outstanding program that provides both undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to have their work funded. But perhaps even more importantly, it also provides an opportunity to be introduced to the process of grant writing and effective communication,” said James Thomas, an associate professor of physical therapy and chair of the council. “Because all applicants receive feedback on their submissions, everybody who participates in the program can improve their creative or scientific endeavors.”

Recipients of the awards will use the grants to fund a variety of research and creative projects, ranging from a study of how to obtain DNA from chewing gum to help solve crimes to an examination of contemporary African art.

Travis Lovejoy, a graduate student in psychology, will use his $5,100 grant to test a telephone-delivered program that aims to reduce the risk of HIV transmission among older adults.

“Despite improvements in medical and psychosocial treatments for persons living with HIV, the disease continues to have a life-altering impact. Reducing HIV transmission is a priority among many health researchers,” Lovejoy said.

Lucila Sackmann-Sala, a graduate student in biomedical sciences at the Edison Biotechnology Institute, received $5,100 to carry out a study on diabetes and obesity. She will analyze the proteins in the fat tissue of mice to work toward finding the link between the two medical conditions.

“I'm thrilled to get this award. It's great to help bring money to the lab to pay for my supplies and travel, especially in these times of economic hardship. I really feel honored to have my project chosen for a SEA,” Sackmann-Sala said.

Courtney Abram and Jocelyn Marshall, undergraduate students in chemical and biomolecular engineering, received $6,000 to examine how cancer cells travel through the blood stream, attach to blood vessel walls and form tumors in new organs.

“This award provides us with an amazing opportunity. Without it, acquiring the necessary data to complete this project would be next to impossible. We hope that through this project we will gain significant insight into not only the mechanisms of metastasis, but the overall treatment and cure of cancer,” Abram and Marshall said.

Aliya Donnell, a graduate student in environmental and plant biology, was awarded $6,000 to conduct a comprehensive taxonomy of Bakeridesia, a genus of tall shrubs native to Latin America.

“Receiving a Student Enhancement Award has enabled me to add a much-needed fieldwork component to my research. Without fieldwork, my dissertation research would not be as well-rounded and thorough as it should be,” Donnell said. “Because the SEA is giving me the resources to study my plants in the field, I will have the opportunity to represent Ohio University abroad. I am very grateful for the doors the Student Enhancement Award has opened for me!”

Jesse Keller, an undergraduate dance student, will use her $2,700 grant when she performs with the Stefanie Batten Bland Company, a professional modern dance company based in France. Keller will perform with the company in New York City and at the Saratoga Art Festival this spring.

“The grant has provided a lot for me and has eased my stress level with this process. This is a stressful time for me because it is my first professional gig. It’s very nice to not worry so much about my living arrangements and wonder ‘How am I going to eat?’” Keller said.

Other recipients of the 2009 Student Enhancement Awards are:

Anthony Austin, a graduate student in psychology, was awarded $5,111 for his research on the effects of stress on blood clotting. The grant will allow him to present his findings to the scientific community next year at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.

David Dufeau, a graduate student in biological sciences, received $5,950 to investigate the evolution of a series of air-filled sinuses that communicate with the middle ears of birds and crocodylians. These middle-ear sinuses have expanded to completely surround the brain. The award will fund Dufeau’s travel to world-class museum collections, including the Natural History Museum in London this fall, and will allow him to bring important fossils back to Athens for CT scanning at the Ohio University MicroCT Facility.

Courtney Cole, a graduate student in communications studies, received $5,100 to research peace-building processes in post-war Sierra Leone. She will travel to the country for several months next school year to conduct her research.

John Blishak, an undergraduate student in the Honors Tutorial College at the Edison Biotechnology Institute, will use his $5,713 award to search for biological markers to detect growth hormone doping.

Erin Schwartz, a graduate student in interdisciplinary arts, is the recipient of $5,312 that will fund travel to two major art exhibitions for research for her thesis on contemporary African art. She is focusing on how a particular artist, Berni Searle, is being presented to an American audience.

Megan Wenning, an undergraduate student in chemistry and biochemistry, received $3,000 to investigate if DNA can be extracted from chewing gum for evidence in crimes.

Whitney Joseph, an undergraduate student in dance, received $3,871 to attend the MELT summer workshop in New York City to research improvisational dance performance techniques.

Warren Stiles, Cass Westover, Nicholas Quinn and John Gedeon, a group of undergraduate and graduate students in theater, received $5,400 to fund automated effects for the School of Theater’s production of “The Tempest.”

Julia Reeves, an undergraduate student in music, received $5,120 to attend the International Music Academy in Pilsen in the Czech Republic this summer. She will be studying different ways to approach standard works for the violin.

Joseph Venosa, a graduate student in history, received $6,000 to conduct archival research in the United Kingdom. His work will investigate the role of Islamic institutions in Eritrean history.

Channa De Silva, a graduate student in chemical and biomolecular engineering, received $5,100 to study fuel cells and the effect of those cells on coal syngas.

Danielle Wyckoff, a graduate student in art, received $5,833 to produce and present her thesis art exhibition. Inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy, which reflects themes about the illusion of separation and true shared existence, her piece will explore the interconnectedness of water and love. Wyckoff’s project will be shown at the Majestic Galleries in Nelsonville, as well as at a national printmaking conference hosted by the Southern Graphics Council.

Damilola Daramola and Allison Dugovics, a pair of graduate and undergraduate students in chemical and biomolecular engineering, will use their $5,971 award to validate a computer model to study the interaction of contaminants in coal-produced syngas with Solid Oxide Fuel Cells.

By Jaclyn Lipp