Stony Brook Graduate Student Organization

Distinguished Travel Award

Fall 2017 Distinguished Travel Award

The Stony Brook Graduate Student Organization and the Graduate School would like to announce the opening of the Fall 2017 application period for the Distinguished Travel Award.

The Distinguished Travel Award (DTA) is issued twice a year, but the number of awards granted will vary subject to available funding. The DTA is a special line of funding designated to provide financial support for graduate students presenting their work at professional conferences/meetings and exhibitions, or performing at concerts/festivals and other venues that enhance the national and international reputation of their department and the University. Awards are determined based on the quality of the applicant's submitted information and the impact of their work, both within their field and academia.


Applicants must be currently enrolled at Stony Brook University and be in good standing in a graduate program. A student may receive this award only once during their academic career at Stony Brook University. Award recipients will be reimbursed after their conference/performance, as per the RAP funding guidelines. Award amounts may not exceed $1,500.

How to Apply

The DTA application should be submitted one semester in advance of the event that the applicant is participating. This is to ensure applicants are informed whether funding will be available to them for the event. The Fall 2017 semester DTA will only provide funding for events occurring in the first half of the 2018 calendar year (01/01/2018 to 06/30/2018). 

Applicants must submit the following materials for consideration:

$1·       Official application form

$1o    The link for the application form can be found under Funding à Applications and Instructions at the GSO website.

$1·       1-pg. cover letter (no more than 500 words) describing the scientific or artistic impact of the presentation/performance in the context of the applicant’s field of study and the significance of the event.

$1·       Curriculum Vitae

$1·       Letter of Recommendation from the student’s advisor

$1·       Letter of Recommendation from a Stony Brook University Faculty Member, other than the student’s advisor that is familiar with the student’s work.

$1o    Letters may be solicited from faculty members with joint appointments at Cold Spring Harbor or Brookhaven National Laboratories.

$1·       Nomination Letter from the student’s raduate program director.

$1o    This letter needs only to confirm that the student has been endorsed by the Graduate Program and that no more than two students from their Graduate Program have been nominated per application cycle (this cap is raised to three students if the Graduate Program has more than 200 students). If the Graduate Program Director is writing one of your letters of recommendation, this nomination can be included in their letter.

Completed applications should be sent as a single PDF electronically to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Letters of recommendation should be sent directly to the GSO Speaker email.

Application Deadline

Applications must be received by 11:59 PM EST on Nov 13th, 2017 for consideration. All application material must be submitted electronically to Roger Shek, GSO Speaker (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Incomplete/Late applications will not be considered. Award recipients will be notified in early December.

**The Distinguished Travel Award was founded in 2011 and is co-funded by the Stony Brook Graduate School and the Stony Brook Graduate Student Organization.




Distinguished Travel Award Spring 2017


Alessandro Del Ponte 

Political Science Department

Alessandro Del Ponte is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science and is affiliated with the Center for Behavioral Political Economy at Stony Brook University.  His interests are at the intersection of economics, politics, and psychology. In his research, he uses methods from experimental economics and political psychology to study how people can solve difficult social dilemmas in international politics, such as fighting climate change.In his paper, he uses an experimental economic approach to political science to study the inequities shaping climate change management. In two experiments with participants from India and the United States, he shows that people willingly create climate problems when those problems are passed along to others. Surprisingly, this is not further exacerbated if those others are from another country. He also shows that with increasing relative losses from climate change people are more likely to contribute to its mitigation. Thus, he identifies a factor that makes preventing climate change difficult and a factor that may lead citizens to contribute to mitigation.The Distinguished Travel Award will permit Alessandro to present this research at the 113th American Political Science Association conference in San Francisco in September 2017, which is among the largest political science meetings in the world. Presenting his research to a wide audience of scholars will allow Alessandro to receive essential feedback for his future work on climate change mitigation and expand his network of colleagues, which will be critically important on the job market.

Alexandra Novitskaya 

Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department

Alexandra Novitskaya is a PhD candidate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research interests lie at the intersections of sexuality, national identity, migration studies and queer theory. In 2015, together with Janet Elise Johnson, she published a chapter on gender in Russian politics in the sixth edition of Putin’s Russia (ed. S. Wegren). Her article on male hysteria and affect in Putin’s masculinity politics is published in NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies. Also, since 2010 she has been volunteering for the international LGBTQ film festival Side-by-Side based in St. Petersburg, Russia, having translated dozens of film transcripts and subtitles. In her doctoral dissertation, Alexandra is working on the ethnographic study of non-heterosexual Russian immigrants’ experiences in the United States. She is interested in learning how these individuals navigate the changes and challenges brought about by migration from Russia to the U.S., and negotiate their right to citizenship, identity, and community belonging; while the highly charged and constantly changing relationship between the two countries is never too far from directly affecting those seeking refuge and ability to define their sexuality on their own terms.

The Distinguished Travel Award will enable Alexandra to attend Queering Paradigms VIII which is a part of an international conference series known for its broad, transdisciplinary approach to examining the current state and future challenges for queer studies. This year, QP8 will take place in Vienna, Austria, with a focus on the concept of queer solidarity specifically from the Post-Soviet perspective. Alexandra will present her paper “Academic Solidarity in Queer and Post-Socialist Studies: Interrogating the Points of Non-Intersection” in which she looks at the relationship between Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality/Queer (WGSS/Q) and Slavic/Post-Socialist Studies in North American academia, questioning the notion of transnational academic solidarity—the backbone of critical feminist and queer studies. She will discuss her ethnographic observations of the three major WGSS/Q and Slavic/Post-Socialist studies conferences that took place in North America over the last two years, addressing how WGSS/Q ignores the LGBTQ issues in the post-socialist region while Slavic Studies has little room for queer studies. This paper is part of Alexandra’s PhD dissertation, which explores the experiences of the growing community of Russian-speaking LGBTQ migrants in New York City, most of whom have come to the U.S. fleeing homophobic violence in Russia and other post-communist states. While Western researchers have been productively engaging with the themes of LGBTQ migration, they have literally ignored the LGBTQ migrants from former communist states. In her paper, Alexandra argues that the absence of the post-socialist LGBTQ migrants’ experiences in LGBTQ migration studies is a direct consequence of the existing “points of non-intersection” between North American WGSS/Q and Slavic/Post-Socialist Studies overall. Therefore, her presentation and the larger PhD research contribute to scholarship in queer and sexuality studies, emphasising the political implications of leaving certain geographical and cultural areas ignored or lesser studied.


Tiffany Richards

Neurobiology and Behavior Department

Tiffany is a Master’s student in the Neuroscience program in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Stony Brook University under the mentorship of Dr. Prithvi Shah. She graduated from Susquehanna University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and has developed a keen interest in the field of neurorehabilitation and repair. The notion that specific interventions and therapies can lead to the recovery of movement even following severe paralysis is particularly fascinating to her. Tiffany’s Master’s research thesis is directed toward the development a novel custom-built Automated Device for the Assessment and Training of Skilled locomotion (known as ADATS) after a spinal cord injury (SCI) in rodents. The device allows for speed control which eliminates motor compensation by speed so that motor impairments, if any, can be easily discernable. Tiffany is currently leading a project which utilizes a cervical dorsal crush injury model to qualitatively evaluate skilled locomotor recovery of the forelimb and hindlimb function following a cervical SCI and validate ADATS as a standardized skilled locomotor assessment tool for pre-clinical experimentation.

With the support provided by the GSO Distinguished Travel Award, Tiffany will present her work at the 2017 ‘Society for Neuroscience’ meeting in Washington DC. which is the world’s leading Neuroscience meeting. As a researcher, presenting a poster at this conference will contribute to a variety of opportunities that will benefit her academic career and further develop her current research. While at the conference Tiffany will have the opportunity to share these research findings with other researchers, obtain rigorous and meaningful scientific feedback, brainstorm new technology and network with other laboratories to plan her future as a scientist in the field of neuroscience.



Yan Xie

Chemistry Department

Yan Xie is a Ph.D. candidate in the Chemistry Department and currently conducting her thesis in Artificial Photosynthesis (AP) group at Brookhaven National Laboratory under the advisement of Dr. Javier Concepcion. Her doctoral research is focused on the development of molecular water oxidation catalysts (WOCs) and the incorporation of the catalysts into assemblies for dye-sensitized photoelectrosynthesis cells (DSPECs), which can be used to split water into oxygen and hydrogen with sunlight (artificial photosynthesis). Her work also involves kinetic and mechanistic studies to gain deeper understanding of how water oxidation takes place. With the support of the Distinguished Travel Award, she will attend the International Solar Fuels Conference (ISF) in San Diego, California this coming July. ISF is a prestigious conference specific to the theme of solar fuels. Participants at this meeting are top worldwide scientists in many areas related to her research. There is also a two-day young researcher meeting for graduate students and post-docs prior to the regular meeting. ISF provides an excellent platform for her to present her latest results and to exchange ideas. In addition, she will learn the most recent advances in solar fuels area and get connected with world-renown scientists. This meeting could be fruitful for her professional development and future career. 


Anusha Shankar

Ecology and Evolution Department

I study how hummingbirds manage and allocate their energy in the wild. My dissertation integrates ecology, physiology and behavior to understand daily energy use strategies of hummingbirds. An understanding of the strategies that hummingbirds use can help us better model species distributions and predict how species will respond to future changing climates. The Distinguished Travel Award will fund my attendance to the International Union of Physiological Sciences' 38th annual meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which promises to be a great and timely opportunity for me to interact with physiologists from all over the world (attendees are from at least 32 countries). I will present my work on hummingbird energy budgets and welcome feedback and collaboration on future projects. My dissertation research has benefited from funding from NASA, National Geographic, the Tinker Foundation, Stony Brook University, the SBU department of Ecology and Evolution, and the American Philosophical Society.



Scott Zukowski

English Department

Scott Zukowski is a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department, specializing in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American literature, culture, and identity. His current research, frequently crossing disciplines and extending into the public sphere, focuses on recovering and preserving the rich cultural histories of Setauket’s centuries-old communities of color. These histories are in danger of being lost to old age, to bulldozers and gentrification, and to a lack of formal protective policies and programs. One of his dissertation chapters analyzes Setauket’s early nineteenth-century literary discourse surrounding race, slavery, and liberty, but his work is equally rooted in the community’s present and future. In 2015, Scott volunteered with a team of archaeologists to excavate two historical African-American homes in Setauket, and in 2016, he partnered with various local organizations to nominate those and other sites to the National Register of Historic Places. He is also collaborating with faculty at Ward Melville High School to incorporate lessons of local histories of color into the school’s curriculum.

Scott has been invited to present on these projects in July 2017 at the Twelfth International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences in Hiroshima, Japan. The GSO’s generous funding will make it possible for him to attend the conference, which will increase support and awareness of the work being done in Setauket. The feedback from experienced, publicly-oriented scholars across academic disciplines and across the world will enhance the success of this socially-important project, and Scott hopes that his work will inspire others in the Humanities to explore revisionist histories and pursue issues of social justice. 

 Miles Massicotte

Miles Massicotte

Music Department

Miles Massicotte is a Doctor of Musical Arts student in the department of music. As a pianist, he has been hailed as a “truly extraordinary” artist showing “a dazzling display of pianistic prowess” (The News-Times). Born in 1990, he began studying piano at the age of 10, and gave his first public performances shortly thereafter. He enjoys a diverse musical career that began in his native Connecticut and has taken him across the United States and abroad, where he has been featured variously as a recitalist, a soloist with orchestras, a chamber musician, as well as a composer and improviser. Miles was the winner of the 2011 James Furman Memorial Competition, and is additionally the recipient of over 15 scholarships and awards. He has been a featured student in a number of masterclass with renowned pianists such as Peter Frankl, Yves Henry, and Angela Cheng. As a soloist and guest artist he has been invited to perform in venues such as the Veronica Hagman Concert Hall, Ives Concert Hall, and Infinity Hall, among many others. As a chamber musician he has performed in virtually every conceivable capacity, from duos to large contemporary ensembles, both throughout the United States as well as internationally. As a young jazz musician, Miles was the recipient of the Louis Armstrong Award. He has gone on to perform on stage alongside jazz greats such as John Scofield, Dave Liebman, and Vic Juris. His original compositions in this genre have been noted for their  “suite-like shifts” and their “amazing vibrancy and chordal modalities” (Hartford Courant). Miles initial musical education came at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, and upon graduating he had twice received the Academy’s “Most Outstanding Classical Instrumentalist” award (2006, 2008). He continued his studies at Western Connecticut State University, where he studied with Russell Hirshfield and Patricia Lutnes, receiving the institution’s “Music Chair” award in his final year (2012). Miles studies at Stony Brook under the tutelage of Gilbert Kalish, where he also works as a teaching assistant. He will perform the Piano Concerto no. 3 of Rachmaninoff there in October 2017 as the winner of Stony Brook's 2016 Concerto Competition. 

The Distinguished Travel Award will assist in a project co-founded by fellow Stony Brook Doctoral candidate Hristina Blagoeva. Together, as the Blagoeva-Massicotte Duo, they are spearheading a project entitled "Music and Cultural Exchange: 2017 Bulgarian and American Composers Project". This project will collect new compositions from contemporary composers from the United States and Bulgaria, and present this music in concerts and workshops held in both countries. As natives of two different countries, the Duo's main goal is to increase awareness of the diverse cultures of Bulgaria and America through music. With over 15 event scheduled between the two countries as part of the project, the Duo aims to facilitate a new kind of musical cultural dialogue. The Distinguished Travel Award will enable the project to come to life by providing assistance in several of the various areas crucial to its success. The success of the project will be fruitful for the Duo's professional career as it will create a foundation upon which they can build a network to continue connecting musicians, students, and audiences, and spur future projects to further the goal of fostering an interchange of ideas in the exciting and burgeoning field of contemporary music. 


 Distinguished Travel Award Fall 2016


Gonzalo Romero Sommer

History Department

I am 3rd year PhD student at the History department at the State University of New Yorkat Stony Brook. My dissertation research is focused on the development of stateinfrastructural power through electricity networks from the Great Depression onwards.Electrification changed existing conceptions of Peruvian space and geography as theAndes came be seen as an opportunity rather than a challenge by intellectuals andstatesmen because of their suitability for the generation of electric power. Furthermore, Ialso explore how this process was shaped by various political regimes and ideologiesthat had different goals regarding to what ends electrification should be used. I finallyanalyze translational linkages between Peru and developed countries when it came tothe exchange of technological knowledge.Thanks to the Distinguished Travel Award, I will be able to attend the Latin AmericanStudies Conference (LASA) held in Lima, Peru. My paper presentation will focus on thespread of fascism in Peru after the Great Depression and how it impacted relations withthe United States during the era. LASA offers me the opportunity to share my work witha diverse group of Latin American scholars, as well as discussing and developing withthem the political and transnational elements of my ongoing research on Peruvian electrification during the twentieth century.

Justin Pargeter

Justin Pargeter

Anthropology Department

Justin Pargeter is a Ph.D. candidate in the Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in

Anthropological Sciences. He is interested in the role of technology in human evolution. His

dissertation research focuses on technological miniaturization, the reduction in the scale of

production and planning, during the late Pleistocene in southern Africa. This work has shown

how technological miniaturization follows long and complex pathways in southern Africa,

and that humans may have adopted this strategy in part to solve challenges of mobility and

climatic uncertainty. With the help provided by the Distinguished Travel Award, Justin will travel to Athens,

Greece where he has been invited to present his work at the 2017 Annual International

Conference on History & Archaeology (IHA). This conference brings together experts in

historic and prehistoric archaeology. What has come of Justin's dissertation research and

what he will present at the 2017 IHA meetings is a vastly more sophisticated and nuanced

understanding of lithic miniaturization. This presentation will introduce audiences to the

complexities of lithic miniaturization, the multiple strategies prehistoric tool-makers in

southern Africa adopted to miniaturize their technologies, and the possible cultural and

environmental contexts that may have encouraged their choices. As a result of this research,

and in line with his presentation at the 2017 IHA meetings, southern African archaeology will

now, and almost for the first time, be in a position to contribute meaningful data to discussions of technological miniaturization at the global scale.


Lyl Tomlinson Headshot 500x500 jpg 

Lyl Tomlinson

Neuroscience Department 

Lyl Tomlinson is a 5th year Ph.D. candidate in the department of Neuroscience. While his main research focuses on exercise and the juvenile brain, he has developed an interest in science communication, the scientific workforce, and career outcomes after graduation.

Due to the Distinguished Travel Award, Lyl will head to Boston, Massachusetts to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Annual Meeting to present the results of a study focused on extra-curricular science communication interests and career outcomes. More specifically, as a result of his experiences competing in an international NASA affiliated science communication competition, FameLab, he was given access to data assessing the effects of the competition on the outcomes of the graduate students that participated. The study assesses the motivations and expectations of those who were highly ranked and sees how their interests were fulfilled one year later. Importantly, it also assesses career outcomes of those who transitioned during this period and notes the science communication related focus of their new positions after graduate school. At the meeting, he will not only have the opportunity to present this research, but also to speak to influential policy makers about the utility of science communication competition’s and programs in the hope of enacting change and promise for the scientific workforce (considering current outcomes— Sauermann & Roach, 2016). In addition, through his efforts in establishing the recently instituted GRD-520 class (Introduction to Science Policy Course for STEM graduate students), Lyl Tomlinson will also be using the meeting to acquire new guest speakers for next year’s class. In all, this meeting represents a great opportunity for Lyl to use skills developed at other scientific conferences to affect change on this campus, for himself and other students in the area of science policy.





David Rodriguez

English Department

David Rodriguez is a PhD candidate in the English department. He specializes in American literature and studies narrative, environment, and the reading experience. The Distinguished Travel Award will be used for a unique project exploring these topics: a 750-mile bike trip to the June 2017 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment conference in Detroit. Another English PhD, Caity Swanson, and David have planned the trip and a panel with the title: "Biking to ASLE: Travel Experience and Conference Form." They will present essays written on the road about the backgrounded, environmental impact of normal academic work (such as regular air travel to international conferences).

David's dissertation focuses on instances of aerial description or views-from-above as a keystone to the environmental imagination in 20th-century American fiction, particularly in the work of Willa Cather, Paul Bowles, William Least Heat-Moon, and others. He also co-organizes the Cognitive Science in the Arts and Humanities Speaker Series:


Tyler Allen Penny


Tyler Allen Penny  

Creative Writing and Literature Department 

Tyler Allen Penny is a poet within the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton, a teaching artist for the Young Artist and Writers Program, a contributing editor for TSR: The Southampton Review, and a poetry instructor at Stony Brook University. His work explores the societal expectations of religious beliefs, masculinity and femininity, and generational conditioning between Northern and Southern cultures of the United States. He's been a featured poet at The Poetry Street Reading Series in Riverhead, NY and his poems have appeared in Columbia Journal, TSR: The Southampton Review, SALT Journal, Deep South Magazine, OF ZOOS and elsewhere. With the help of the Distinguished Travel Award, he will attend the prestigious Tin House Poetry Winter Workshop in Portland, Oregon, where he will submit a portion of his thesis, a collection of poetry titled "All-American Boy", to be critiqued and work closely with other talented contemporary poets like Ada Limon, Matthew Zapruder, and Kevin Young.

Jennifer Nicoloro

Jennifer Nicoloro

Psychology Department 

 Jennifer Nicoloro-SantaBarbara is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Social and Health Psychology program under the advisement of Dr. Marci Lobel. Her research interests include stress and coping in the context of reproductive health, chronic illness, and rare diseases such as mast celldisorders. During her graduate training, Jennifer has collaborated with investigators in the Departments of Medical Psychiatry and Reproductive Psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Medicine at Stony Brook Medical Center. She is also the recipient of the North American Society for Psychosocial Obstetrics and Gynecology’s Steiner Young Investigator Award. With the support provided by the Distinguished Travel Award, Jennifer will travel to San Diego, California in March of 2017 to participate on a panel in a symposium entitled Fertility, Pregnancy, and Birth in the Age of Reproductive Technologies: Challenges and Opportunities for Behavioral Medicine at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.  Jennifer's presentation, "Does Maternal Distress Predict Assisted Reproductive Technology Outcomes? A Meta-Analytic Investigation" will include findings from her meta-analysis, which systematically evaluated evidence about the association of emotional distress in women undergoing assisted reproductive technology (ART) with their likelihood of treatment success. As the prevalence of women who use infertility treatment continues to grow, and given the scientifically founded hypothesis that emotional distress can diminish the success of infertility treatment, there is a pressing need to clarify the existence and magnitude of association between distress and infertility treatment outcomes in a methodologically rigorous manner. Jennifer’s findings provide a foundation for focused research to investigate associations of pretreatment and procedural emotional distress with ART outcomes and to examine the mechanisms that account for these effects, which are thought to involve dysregulation of immune and endocrine processes as well as women's health behaviors.


Partrick Kraft

Patrick Kraft 

Political Science Department 

Patrick W. Kraft is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science. His research

focuses on political attitudes, ideology, moral reasoning, and methodology.

As part of his dissertation research, Patrick develops a new measure of political

sophistication by examining how individuals describe their political attitudes in their own

words. More specifically, he leverages recent advances in quantitative text analysis to

assess the complexity in open-ended survey responses. The proposed measure

incorporates information about the range of political issues as well as the diversity of

attitudes raised by respondents who discuss their political beliefs. It reveals similar

patterns as conventional political knowledge metrics -- which are usually based on

quizzes -- with one important exception. While previous research frequently found that

women appear to be less informed about politics than men, this gender gap disappears

when using the alternative measure proposed in Patrick’s dissertation: Women do not

differ in the complexity and sophistication of their expressed political attitudes. This result

is important since it challenges a common finding on gender differences in a concept that

is fundamental to political science. More generally, the development of valid measures of

political sophistication based on open-ended responses can provide new opportunities to

examine political knowledge across time and contexts.

The GSO Distinguished Travel Award allows Patrick to present this research at the

annual conference of the European Political Science Association in Milan, Italy. It is the

largest political science conference in Europe with about 800 participants and will provide

invaluable opportunities to meet leading scholars in the field. Being able to discuss his

research with a broad audience will provide important feedback for his ongoing

dissertation work and to prepare for the academic job market.

 Erin Kang Profile Photo

Erin Kang 

Clinical Psychology Department 

Erin Kang is a third-year PhD student in Clinical Psychology program, working with Dr. Matthew Lerner. Erin also collaborate with Dr. Ken Gadow in the Department of Psychiatry. Her research interests include understanding various mechanisms and developmental processes involved in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and evidence-based interventions for ASD, via merging methodologies in psychopathology and neuroscience.  For instance, she is particularly interested in addressing core questions about developmental plasticity of social processes in youth with ASD and how experiences, such as interventions, can shape developmental trajectories of these individuals, The generous support provided by the Distinguished Travel Award will allow Erin to travel to San Francisco, CA, in May 2017 to present her work at the International Meeting for Autism Research on hemispheric asymmetry in electroencephalogram (EEG) as an electrophysiological marker of anxiety in youth with ASD and predictor of treatment response to intervention. Presenting this work at this conference to is important, as it is highly consonant with Erin’s focus on the study of developmental plasticity and factors that can predict it. She is also co-author on 6 other presentations at this conference and attending this conference will be a great opportunity to share her research endeavors at Stony Brook to researchers and clinicians from all over the world.

Distinguished Travel Award Spring 2016

On behalf of the Stony Brook Graduate School and the GSO's Committee on Academic Affairs, we are proud to announce the winners of the Distinguished Travel Award for Spring 2016. The DTA recognizes outstanding research by Stony Brook University graduate students who present their work at a prestigious conference. Winners are reimbursed up to $1,500 for the travel costs for attending the conference. We received a number of excellent submissions and are very pleased with the caliber of work being performed by our graduate student body. This semester, we are announcing two sets of winners -- those who are traveling to conferences in the first half of the year, and separately those who are traveling to conferences in the second half of the year.


Allison Marziliano

Social and Health Psychology


Allison Marziliano small

Allison Marziliano is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Social and Health Psychology program at Stony Brook University. She received her Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University in May of 2011, and her Master of Arts in Social and Health Psychology from Stony Brook University in May of 2014. During her graduate training, Allison has collaborated with investigators at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Columbia University, Mt. Sinai Medical Center, and Stony Brook Medical Center. She has worked with adult patients with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and Multiple Sclerosis, and pediatric patients with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and learning and behavioral disorders. She currently has nine publications and over 20 oral or poster presentations.  
With the support provided by the Distinguished Travel Award, Allison will travel to Dublin, Ireland in October of 2016 to present two projects at the 18th World Congress of the International Psycho-oncology Society (IPOS). The first project, her dissertation, uses data from a randomized controlled trial of over 200 patients with advanced cancer. This project aims to identify the demographic, illness-related and psychological variables that predict patients’ preference for Individual Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy compared to the gold standard in psychotherapy for patients with cancer, Individual Supportive Psychotherapy. The second project is a systematic review and meta-analysis of the relationship between post-traumatic growth and post-traumatic stress in patients with cancer. Each year, clinicians and researchers from around the world convene at this prestigious conference to discuss psychosocial cancer care.


Avi Srivastava


Department of Computer Science



Avi Srivastava Small
I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of Computer Science under the advisement of Dr. Rob Patro. My interest is in developing fast and scalable methods for analyzing high-throughput RNA sequencing data. My dissertation research focuses on solving the complex problem of aligning short RNA read sequences to the transcriptome. This problem of read alignment has been studied for a long time, but due to the computationally intensive nature of the problem and many biological complexities, traditional  aligners takes hours to run and are sometimes not accurate enough for downstream analyses. While investigating the problem I’ve developed the fastest method for mapping short reads to the transcriptome with equal (and sometimes better) accuracy than traditional aligners. Using this state-of-the-art tool, scientists can now perform faster and more accurate downstream analysis like transcript quantification and differential gene expression in minutes.
With the support provided by Distinguished Travel Award, I will travel to Orlando, Florida where I am invited for a talk on my work at the 2016 annual meeting of "Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB)." under the topic Gene / Protein Sequence Analysis of proceeding track presentations. ISMB is a leading conference, which is attended by many top scientists in the field. It provides a crucial opportunity for me to discuss my work with the community, and to network and meet with potential future collaborators and people who are likely to play an important role in the future of my career.

David Frank


David Frank small

David Frank is a doctoral candidate in the Pharmacology graduate program at Stony Brook University. His dissertation research focuses on hematopoietic cells of the bone marrow during infection. Currently, he is examining how a pair of proteins known as Sts-1 and Sts-2 regulate hematopoietic cell activity. His latest findings have indicated that these proteins may serve as a therapeutic target for infectious diseases, such as invasive candidiasis (IC). Every year, there are an estimated 250,000 people diagnosed worldwide with IC. Of these cases, there are an estimated 50,000 deaths worldwide every year. This can occur even with proper use of anti-fungal medication.
David will present a poster of his work at the 2016 Cell Symposia: 100 years of phagocytes in Sicily, Italy. This year’s conference honors the 100th year since the discovery of phagocytes in mammals. These cells help in maintenance of organs and clearance of invasive pathogens. His poster will detail how inactivation of Sts-1/2 can promote candida clearance, and in turn, help in long term survival. He believes that these findings will help in the development of new treatments for susceptible patient populations and in limiting the mortality associated with the disease.

Erik Kopping

Molecular Genetics and Microbiology 

Erik Kopping small
Erik Kopping is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Program in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology working in the laboratory of Dr. David Thanassi.  Erik’s dissertation work focuses on how a bacterial pathogen, Francisella tularensis, counteracts the host’s innate immune response to infection.  F. tularensis can cause a severe, and often lethal, pneumonia in humans.  Due to its extreme infectivity, several countries weaponized F. tularensis, prompting fear that F. tularensis could be used as a potential biothreat agent.  Therefore, a better understanding of F. tularensis pathogenesis is critical to help develop an effective vaccine to combat this threat.  Currently, Erik’s research focuses on how the F. tularensis outer membrane channel protein TolC contributes to immune evasion during infection of macrophages.  He is working to understand how TolC is functioning (i.e. through virulence factor secretion) in order to delay the macrophage programmed cell death responses during infection.  This function of TolC is crucial because it allows for the bacterium to reside and replicate in the macrophage undetected without exposure to extracellular host defenses.  The GSO Distinguished Travel Award will help fund Erik’s attendance at the Gordon Research Conference on Microbial Toxins and Pathogenicity where he will present a poster on the role of TolC in F. tularensis pathogenesis.  The conference will be attended by some of the most prominent researchers in the field of host-pathogen interactions and will be a great opportunity to showcase the exciting research conducted at Stony Brook University.

John Kane

Political Science

John Kane small

John V. Kane is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science. His research primarily focuses on political partisanship and ideology, public opinion, and experimental research methodology.  

With the help provided by the Distinguished Travel Award, John will travel to Warsaw, Poland, in July for the 2016 Annual Meeting of the International Society for Political Psychology (ISPP).  John has received a fellowship to ISPP’s prestigious Summer Academy, which will enable him to meet and learn from a variety of renowned scholars in the field.  In addition, the ISPP accepted John’s research proposal for presentation at the conference.  John will be discussing his research on using “manipulation checks” in experimental designs.  Implementing a manipulation check within an experiment enables the researcher to more confidently assess the extent to which a given “treatment” is, in fact, received by subjects participating in the experiment.  In practice, however, the manner in which researchers both conceptualize and implement manipulation checks varies tremendously.  The aim of John’s study is to bring greater clarity to the nature and purpose of manipulation checks in experimental designs, as well as to empirically evaluate the potential advantages and disadvantages of particular types of manipulation checks.  The study hopes to provide researchers who are interested in using experiments with practical guidance on how to ensure that treatments are received.  Being able to present this paper and discuss it with leading scholars at the 2016 ISPP conference promises an invaluable opportunity to further develop this research.

Jose Chueca

Hispanic Languages and Literature

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Jose Chueca is a graduate student in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature. He is currently working on his dissertation project called Visual Atlas of the Peruvian Political Unconscious. This research explores the relationships between visual representations of political violence in the Peruvian imaginary using the photographic exhibition Yuyanapaq as a starting point. This exhibition, organized by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), is a visual documentary complement to the TRC Final Report regarding the brutal war between the Peruvian state and the terrorist organizations Sendero Luminoso and MRTA, from 1980 to 2000. Political violence has pervaded Peruvian society since long before the Peruvian Republic was born and its visual representations are more than simple depictions of reality: they are constitutive elements of hostility that has become naturalized to the point of jeopardizing the viability of Peru as a modern and democratic nation. The objective of this research is to find the cultural mechanisms that support such a naturalization process and to identify the ideas, narratives, and affects that fuel it endlessly –or so it seems. Before entering SBU, Jose worked for more than ten years as a journalist for major newspapers in Lima, Peru, such as El Comercio and Peru 21. The Distinguished Travel Award will help Jose to attend the Summer 2016 edition of the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University, where he expects to develop more sophisticated theoretical tools and to receive intellectual mentoring for this ambitious project.


Michelle Ho

Cultural Analysis and Theory

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Michelle H. S. Ho is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Cultural Analysis and Theory. Her dissertation is a pioneering ethnographic study of josō (dressing as women) and dansō (dressing as men) cafes—what she calls “drag cafes”—establishments in which employees dress as the opposite gender in contemporary Tokyo, Japan. Specifically, Michelle’s project tracks the subcultural practices of josō and dansō, employees’ affective labor, or the work of caring for another being, and development of bonds among patrons and employees. Her dissertation offers insights into shifting perceptions of gender and sexuality in 21st century Japan, contributing to gender and sexuality studies outside the U.S. context and anthropological scholarship on Japanese culture and society. Michelle’s research is funded by the Japan Foundation in the 2016-2017 academic year, during which she will conduct long-term fieldwork in central Tokyo.
With the support of the Distinguished Travel Award, Michelle will present her initial observations on drag cafes at the 2016 Asian Studies Conference Japan held in Tokyo in a twin panel she has co-organized with Dr. SPF Dale of Hitotsubashi University. Comprising of ten internationally-based activists and scholars, this double panel, “‘Queer’ Lines: Genders and Sexualities in Institutions and at Play in Japan I & II,” will explore gender and sexual identities in Japanese social and medical institutions and media and popular culture. Michelle’s presentation, “Queer Attachments: Inhabiting Affective Spaces in Japan’s Drag Cafes,” rethinks what constitutes “queer” in the Japanese context by exploring the attachments between individuals in drag cafes.

Nicholas Schwartz



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Nick is a doctoral candidate in the Program in Neuroscience at Stony Brook University, working in the laboratory of Dr. Lina Obeid in the Department of Medicine. Nick graduated from Duke University in 2012 with a BS in Neuroscience and Philosophy. His undergraduate research predominantly focused on using egg-laying behavior in flies to model decision-making. Nick’s current dissertation work in the Obeid Lab focuses on understanding the role of sphingolipid metabolism in the pathology of neurological disorders. Elucidating these mechanisms of disease holds the promise of identifying targets that can be used in the development of novel treatments to prevent or reduce the severity of the neurological disease.
With the generous support of the Distinguished Travel Award, Nick will present his research at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego. This is the largest international annual neuroscience meeting and will expose Nick to cutting edge research in neurodegeneration and allow him to share his discoveries with the scientific community. He hopes that conferring with experts utilizing differing approaches within neuroscience will lead to further interdisciplinary studies and collaborations. After completing his doctoral work, Nick plans to complete the final two years of medical school in the Medical Scientist Training Program and pursue a career in academic medicine.

Rachel Ansong

MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literature

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Rachel Ansong is a Ghanaian American artist who writes poetry and teaches contemporary and traditional West African dance. A 2015 BRIO (Bronx Recognizes its Own), Rachel continues to write about the challenges of the African immigrant in the United States, exploring themes of transition, citizenship, and identity. Rachel is currently a student at Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA program where she’s working on several manuscripts about the migration of humans, birds, and language. Her work has appeared in Folio and can also be seen on her blog She has also performed at the 2016 PEN World Voices Festival, the Bronx Book Fair and Poetry Street. This summer, she will be studying with Jericho Brown, poet & Guggenheim Fellow at the Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference.

Rachel Schutz


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Hailed for her “diamantine high notes, witty characterization, and giddily delirious coloratura” (Boston Globe), Welsh-born soprano Rachel Schutz is increasingly in demand for her sensitive and evocative performances and a wide range of repertoire. She is active both in the opera house and on the concert stage, having performed extensively around the United States, Europe, and Asia. Recent operatic roles have included Papagena, Diana (Siren Song) and Johanna (Sweeney Todd) with Hawai'i Opera Theater, Thérèse (Les mamelles de Tirésias) and Jessie (Mahagonny Songspiel) with Opera Paralèlle, Susanna and Adele (Die Fledermaus) with Stockton Opera, and Blondchen and Musetta with Stony Brook Opera. A seasoned recitalist and concert singer known for her "communicative zest," Ms. Schutz has been heard at the Ravinia Festival under the direction of James Conlon, with the Hawai'i Symphony Orchestra, at the Ojai Festival, at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall, on the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series, with the Boston Pops Orchestra, and at venues around China, Taiwan, and Korea. She has also been featured on Hawai'i's KHPR and Chicago's WFMT, and can be heard on "Elements," an Albany Records album of contemporary American music. As an avid supporter of new music, Ms. Schutz enjoys close working relationships with many young composers, and has worked with Milton Babbitt, William Bolcom, Libby Larsen, Augusta Read-Thomas and Thomas Osborne on their music. Ms. Schutz was a two-time Santa Fe Opera Apprentice and Tanglewood Fellow, and is currently pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts Degree at Stony Brook University.

Steven Jaret


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Steven Jaret is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geosciences. Steven studies meteorite impact craters both on the Earth, the Moon, and Mars, and he is specifically interested in how to determine when large impacts have occurred. His work directly relates to how we interpret meteorite samples, which we use to understand the geology of these other planetary bodies.
With the DTA, Steven will travel to Berlin, Germany this summer to present at the 79th annual meeting of the Meteoritical Society. This meeting is the largest international professional gathering of scientists who study meteorites. In addition to presenting at the meeting, Steven will participate in workshops and discussions led by internationally recognized and acclaimed scientists in his field.

Himanshu Sharma 

Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology




Distinguished Travel Award Fall 2015

 On behalf of the Stony Brook Graduate School and the GSO's Committee on Academic Affairs, we are proud to announce the winners of the Distinguished Travel Award for Fall 2015. The DTA recognizes outstanding research by Stony Brook University graduate students who present their work at a prestigious conference. Winners are reimbursed up to $1,500 for the travel costs for attending the conference. We received a number of excellent submissions and are very pleased with the caliber of work being performed by our graduate student body. This semester, we are announcing two sets of winners -- those who are traveling to conferences in the first half of the year, and separately those who are traveling to conferences in the second half of the year.



Simone Hoffman

Anatomical Sciences


Simone is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anatomical Sciences. Simone is interested in the evolution of early mammals that lived during the so-called “Age of Dinosaurs.” Her dissertation work focuses on the evolution of a particularly rare clade of fossil mammals called Gondwanatheria from the Cretaceous of Madagascar. As part of this work Simone investigates how hearing evolved in these early mammals. The Malagasy gondwanatherians show a highly unusual combination of very derived and primitive ear features that are not seen in any known mammal to date, living or fossil. These findings contradict and confuse the general understanding of the transition from reptilian to mammalian hearing. To further interpret the functional implications of this unique morphology, it is important to investigate inner ears, not just within mammals, but also further down the tree of life. In particular, how does hearing and balance in mammals work relative to that in reptiles, amphibians, and even fishes? With the support provided by the Distinguished Travel Award, Simone will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to present her work on the inner ear of gondwanatherians at the International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology (ICVM) as part of a special symposium on ear evolution in vertebrates. This prestigious meeting sets out to unite researchers from very diverse fields spanning functional morphology, histology, evolutionary development, and paleontology. The ICVM provides an excellent opportunity to discuss questions on ear evolution with leading scientists studying a broad range of vertebrate groups.



Nathan Thomson


Anatomical Sciences


Nathan Thompson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anatomical Sciences. He is interested in the evolution and biomechanics of two-legged walking in the earliest human ancestors. His dissertation research focuses on how humans effectively and efficiently walk on two legs, while at the same time balance a heavy upper body atop a narrow pelvis. His dissertation work has shown that the human torso plays several roles important for efficient and stable bipedal walking, and that some of these roles are more ancient than previously thought.

With the help provided by the Distinguished Travel Award, Nathan will travel to San Diego where he has been invited to present his work at the 2016 annual meeting of The American Association of Anatomists in the symposium, “Axial Anatomy in Primates:  Locomotion, Posture & Evolution”. This symposium brings together experts in bone and muscle morphology, locomotion, and biomechanics in order to synthesize multiple lines of evidence into a comprehensive picture of how the torso works and has evolved in humans and other primates. Ultimately the symposium seeks to understand how we and our primate relatives evolved body plans that reflect our behaviors and the ways in which we interact with our environments.



Michael Klingener



Michael Klingener is a doctoral candidate under the advisement of Dr. Adan Aguirre in the Genetics graduate program at Stony Brook University. His dissertation research focuses on neural stem and progenitor cells of the central nervous system (CNS), both during normal development and in pathological conditions. Currently, he is examining how ADAM metalloproteinases, particularly ADAM10, regulates oligodendrogenesis and myelination in the CNS. His latest findings have indicated that ADAM10 may serve as a therapeutic target in demyelinating disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Currently, there are over 2.5 million multiple sclerosis (MS) patients worldwide, with approximately 200 cases being added each week in the United States. Traditional MS therapies target the immune system to block inflammation. While this form of treatment is effective in the short-term, it fails to address the underlying cause of disease progression (oligodendrocyte cell loss). At the 2016 American Society of Neurochemistry (ASN) meeting in Denver, Colorado, Michael will present a poster of his work detailing how inhibition of ADAM10 can promote oligodendrocyte regeneration, and in turn, enhance brain repair. He hopes that these findings will assist in the development of new treatments aimed at reducing the long term functional and cognitive deficits associated with MS.




Mary Kate Donovan 

Hispanic Languages and Literature 


Mary Kate Donovan is a doctoral candidate in the department of Hispanic Languages and Literature. Her dissertation, Imagining the Orient: Representations of the Chinese in Modern Spanish Culture, examines depictions of the Chinese in Spanish literature, cinema and popular media during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This research explores how models for representing the Chinese in the West have been reimagined in Spanish cultural production, arguing that the category of “Chineseness” is geographically and historically fluid. Moreover, this research finds that Spain’s growing Chinese community challenges traditional definitions of “Spanishness.” This research contributes to the growing subfield of Asian Hispanic Studies, which examines the network of cultural relationships that link Asia, Spain and Latin America. Mary Kate’s dissertation research is funded by Stony Brook’s Graduate Fellowship and Faculty Research Program during the 2015-2016 academic year.

Mary Kate has organized a three-day seminar for the American Comparative Literature Association’s 2016 Annual Meeting. The seminar, titled “Orientalism and Iberia’s Search for Modernity,” proposes an exploration of Iberian Orientalism, its definition(s) and its role in the region’s ongoing quest to define itself as modern, cosmopolitan and global. She will also give a paper as part of the seminar titled “Una star en Madrid: Anna May Wong in Spanish Film Magazines.” The paper examines the ways in which Spanish film magazines of the 1920s and 1930s constructed the Chinese-American actress’ identity as simultaneously Oriental, American and European. In doing so it argues that for the Spanish (and largely female) readers, access to Wong’s celebrity through these film magazines served as a tool for constructing themselves as modern and cosmopolitan.



Laurel Yohe 

Ecology and Evolution


Laurel Yohe is a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University, working under the mentorship of Dr. Liliana Dávalos. Laurel’s broad research interests include sensory biology and understanding how different organisms perceive the world around them. Her dissertation research focuses on bats and their sense of smell. The group of bats she studies are known for their diversity of different diets, including fruit, nectar, small vertebrates, insects, and blood. The challenge for bats is finding these resources in the dark, and often times the sense of smell has to supplement echolocation. Laurel is seeking for signatures of molecular adaptation in smell receptors of these bats to see if any plant-visiting species have a specialized sense of smell for finding flowers and fruit. The sense of smell is perhaps the most poorly understood sense, and the discoveries made from this study to be presented have implications for advancing knowledge in sensory biology, neuroscience, biochemistry, and genomics.

The GSO Distinguished Travel Award funded Laurel to present her initial findings as an oral presentation at the 2016 annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in Portland, Oregon. Her talk was a part of the session on Neuroecology & Neural Mechanisms.  The meeting is highly interdisciplinary and Laurel had the opportunity to share her work with scientists from many different fields.



Yiyang Wu 



"Yiyang is a Ph.D. candidate in Genetics at Stony Brook University, and she is conducting her thesis research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Yiyang’s dissertation project focuses on a nearly untouched yet important topic in biomedical sciences as well as in clinical medicine, to investigate the role of the N-terminal acetylation (NTA) of proteins in human heart disease pathogenesis, using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from individuals affected by a rare disorder called Ogden syndrome as a model. NTA is among the most common modifications of human proteins, and Ogden syndrome is the first known disease that linked to NTA disruption, contributed by a mutation in a major NTA enzyme. With the hope of sharing her research with more colleagues and further broadening the translational scope of it, Yiyang is going to present her research at the Heart Rhythm Society's 37th Annual Scientific Sessions in San Francisco this May. Heart Rhythm Society is the international leader in science and education of cardiac arrhythmia, dedicating to improve the care of heart patients by advancing research, education and optimal health care policies and standards. The depth and breadth of its annual scientific sessions make it a must-attend event for various professionals in the heart field including researchers like Yiyang."


Fernanda Page 



Fernanda R. Page Poma is a Ph.D candidate at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She obtained her M.A. from this same institution, a specialization in Education from the University of San Andrés in Argentina, and her Licenciatura in Political Science from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. Her research specializes on political sociology, with a current focus on social movements, policing and repression. Fernanda has undertaken numerous investigations on diverse issues in the field of political sociology, on issues of work and inequality, education policy, repression, and social movements. She has worked in journalism, academia and government, and she is currently working as researcher for the Argentine School of Defense were she is looking into social problems related to the military and security.



Nick Parkinson 


Art History 



Nicholas Parkinson is a PhD candidate in Art History studying the history of nineteenth-century Scandinavian art. His dissertation, “Imagining the North: Scandinavian Art in Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture and Criticism,” studies the reception of Scandinavian art in Paris by detailing when, where, and how it was seen by contemporary French audiences. During the spring 2016 semester, Nicholas has been invited to be a visiting researcher at the University of Oslo where he will be doing archival research for his dissertation. In April, will present his article, “From Enlightenment to École: Tracing the Idea of Scandinavian Art in French Criticism,” at the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art & Ideas PhD seminar. This article, which examines the history of art critical writings on Scandinavian art, was recently published Norway’s longest-standing art history journal, Kunst og Kultur, of the National Museum in Oslo.



Iñigo Urteaga


Electrical and Computer Engineering


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Iñigo Urteaga is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Stony Brook University under the supervision of Professor Petar M. Djuric. He has specialized in statistical signal processing and machine learning and is interested in the science of data inference, modeling, and prediction.
The focus of his dissertation is on inference and prediction of latent time-series, where data is available sequentially in time but the intriguing information is hidden; that is, the variables of interest are not directly observed. The analysis of time-varying phenomena, observed sequentially in time, is critical in many applications, including weather sciences, the study of stocks and goods prices in econometrics, bio-medical signal processing, or concentrations of pollutants in the environment.
The aims of his dissertation are (1) to devise novel models that describe the properties of the data accurately, and (2) to develop improved mechanisms for inference and prediction of the variables of interest. To do so, methods from statistics and engineering are leveraged, namely Sequential Monte Carlo methods and Bayesian Theory.
With the support provided by the GSO Distinguished Travel Award, he will present his work in the renowned International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP 2016), which will be held during 20-25 March 2016 in Shanghai, China. ICASSP is the prominent venue to establish connections and engage in meaningful discussion with the most distinguished members of the signal processing community.

Jianqiu Guo

Material Science and Engineering

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Jianqiu Guo is a graduate student in Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He joined Stony Brook University in Fall 2011 and has been carrying out his Ph.D. research with Professor Michael Dudley, Chair of the Department since then. For his doctoral research, Jianqiu has been developing semiconductor materials used for power electronics by improving the quality of the materials through comprehensive defect analysis. Successful applications of these power electronics in both “Smart Grid” and electric/hybrid vehicle industries have enabled huge energy savings and precise power controls. Jianqiu has conducted the research at several national laboratories in the US including Brookhaven National Lab, Argonne National Lab, etc., as well as international institute such as Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. During his years as PhD student, Jianqiu has authored and co-authored over 20 papers in leading journals in materials science such as Journal of Crystal Growth, Journal of Electronic Materials, etc., and given talks at many conferences including the 16th International Conference on Silicon Carbide and Related Materials (ICSCRM) held in Italy in 2015. Furthermore, he has twice been invited to review research articles for Materials Research Society, a premium international organization for research related to materials science. In addition to his research work, Jianqiu has been teaching three courses as TA and has been recognized for his teaching excellence with a Graduate Teaching Assistant Award in 2014. Jianqiu Guo is currently working on silicon carbide, a promising wide-bandgap semiconductor material that is expected to replace conventional silicon for many applications.


Joseph Underwood

Art History

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Joseph L. Underwood is a Ph.D. candidate, hailing from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He has conducted research in Senegal, France, and China as a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar and a James G. Stemler Scholar. He has also held positions at the University of Kentucky Art Museum, Musée Boribana (Dakar), The Metropolitan Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.
His research interests include modern and contemporary art in Africa, especially in Senegal, and on exhibition practices at fairs, biennials, and museums. Future research projects will focus on the role of artists in creating transnational networks, the relationship between artist and authorship, and art institutions in Africa. This DTA award from GSO will allow for further research in Dakar, concluding with a publication and presentation on archival photography as it intersects with contemporary artistic practice in Senegal.


Neha Puri

Molecular and Cellular Biology

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Neha Puri is a graduate student in the Molecular and Cellular Biology program. She is carrying out her Ph.D. thesis research in the laboratory of Dr. Wali Karzai in the Department of Biochemistry. Her research focuses on how bacteria use protein degradation enzymes to control virulence gene expression. She is currently working on Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague. Her thesis project is aimed at studying the regulation of a specific degradation machine called the “Lon protease.” Since its discovery, substrate selection and control of Lon protease activity in the cell are poorly understood. Through her work, she aims to answer these long-standing questions, with special emphasis on the role of Lon in controlling the ability of Yersinia pestis to cause disease. She utilizes a combination of microbiological, biochemical, and molecular techniques to facilitate her investigations. Her time is spent on purifying bacterial enzymes and proteins, which she then uses as substrates to understand how these proteases work.

She presented her research at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Annual meeting held in San Diego, California in April 2016. This interdisciplinary meeting gave Neha a chance to interact with scientists from a variety of fields.

Peter Manza


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I’m a 5th-year Ph.D. student working with Dr. Hoi-Chung Leung in the psychology department at Stony Brook. Our lab uses brain imaging to study the neural basis of cognition. For my master's project, we used electroencephalography to study how brain waves in the alpha-band frequency contribute to working memory, or our ability to remember information that is relevant while ignoring distractions. Since then, we have been collaborating with Dr. Chiang-shan Ray Li of the Yale University psychiatry department to study aging and Parkinson’s disease (PD).
My thesis project attempts to understand why patients with PD suffer from cognitive deficits. To do this, we have volunteered with PD perform an experiment where they complete a cognitive task while we measure their brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). With this approach, we have found that specific sites in the frontal cortex are improperly responding to error. In other words, when healthy adults make a mistake, their brain sends a signal to correct this behavior in the future—but in patients with PD, this feedback process is impaired. We think that this underlies many cognitive difficulties that patients experience, and we’re currently trying to see how this is affected by medications that boost the brain chemical dopamine.