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Source: Jim Hohenbary, 785-532-6904, jimlth@k-state.edu
Photos available. Contact media@k-state.edu or 785-532-6415.
News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-6415, khodges2@k-state.edu

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

K-STATE STUDENT FROM KANSAS CITY, KAN., EARNS GRADUATE RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP FROM NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION; TWO STUDENTS EARN HONORABLE MENTIONS

MANHATTAN -- A Kansas State University student has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and one student and one recent graduate have received honorable mentions.

Elizabeth Ploetz, Kansas City, Kan., is a recipient of the research fellowship. She is a fifth-year student in the biochemistry program, for which she will receive bachelor's and master's degrees. The honorable mention winners were Emily Mangus, Manhattan, a 2008 K-State summa cum laude graduate in biological and agricultural engineering, and Katerina Voigt, McPherson, senior in chemical engineering with a secondary major in biological engineering.

"With a total value of more than $120,000 each, NSF Graduate Research Fellowships represent a large investment in the future of research and innovation in this country," said Jim Hohenbary, K-State assistant dean for nationally competitive scholarships. "Clearly, the winners and honorable mentions demonstrate the potential to become the next generation of leaders in the mathematic, scientific and engineering disciplines. As such, it is always very exciting to see K-State students and recent alums recognized."

The fellowship award provides a $30,000 stipend and $10,500 cost-of-education allowance annually for three years of education. The National Science Foundation awards students funding for research-based master's or doctoral degrees in programs relevant to the foundation's mission.

Ploetz will attend K-State through the fellowship and will continue working with Paul E. Smith, K-State professor of chemistry. The researchers are studying the mechanism by which proteins are denatured by their environment, and the resulting process of protein aggregation. The process is not well understood and is involved in many high-profile diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease. Ploetz's focus has been improving the description of the interaction energy between particles in molecular dynamics simulations through the use of the Kirkwood-Buff theory. Her work could ultimately help researchers trust a simulation's results. After earning her graduate degree, she plans to work in a faculty position in computational chemistry or biophysics at a research-intensive university.

Ploetz also has received a National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellowship, for which she will be creating a science curriculum and teaching high school students in Junction City. She is a PRN emergency medical technician for Riley County Emergency Medical Services.

At K-State, Ploetz has been a member of Engineers in Medicine and Biology Society and a teacher's assistant in chemistry courses. She also has been a student affiliate of the American Chemical Society and a member of Phi Kappa Phi academic honor society, Golden Key international honor society and the National Scholars Honor Society. She has conducted summer research at the University of Notre Dame through the Nano Bioengineering Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program. She has received a Kansas State University Foundation Scholarship, a Wanda Bates Biochemistry Undergraduate Scholarship and a R. Kenneth Burkhard Women in Biochemistry Scholarship. A 2005 graduate of Maranatha Academy, she is the daughter of Frederick W. and Sandra K. Ploetz of Kansas City, Kan.

Mangus is a graduate student in bioengineering at the University of Kansas, working in tissue engineering. She would like to have a career in research and development for tissue engineering, and to help develop programs to help recruit and retain future women engineers. At K-State, she was selected for an internship through the Biomedical Engineering Summer Internship Program. She worked at the National Institutes of Health and studied how varying tumor tissue stiffness affects the outcome of radiofrequency ablation, a liver cancer treatment. She also conducted research through the College of Engineering honors program with Stacy Hutchinson, K-State associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering. She studied the feasibility of using poplar trees as a biofuel source. Mangus is a member of Tau Beta Pi national engineering honor society. At K-State, she was a member of the Smurthwaite Leadership/Scholarship House, a member and former treasurer of Engineers in Medicine and Biology Society, and was a mathematics tutor. She also was involved with the Women in Engineering and Science Program outreach activities. She received the Fort Riley Combined Scholarship, Military Benefits Association Scholarship and K-State Engineering Scholarship. She also received second place in the National K.K. Barnes Student Technical Writing Competition and third place in the K-State Technical Writing Competition. She has received the USAA National Collegiate Engineering Award and the Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society's Junior Honors Award of Merit. A 2004 graduate of Manhattan High School, she is the daughter of Terry and Claire Beck, Manhattan.

Voigt has been conducting research with Stefan Bossman, K-State professor of chemistry. She is working with extraction and characterization of MspA, a bacterial membrane protein with anticancer potential. She plans to enter the chemical and biological engineering doctorate program at the University of Colorado-Boulder. She is interested in tissue engineering, targeted drug delivery systems and other biomedical engineering. She is a College of Engineering Ambassador and a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. She is the recording secretary of Tau Beta Pi national engineering honor society and the president of Mentors for International Experiences. She also was a member of the K-State Chem-E-Car design team that placed first regionally and sixth nationally. She has received the Tau Beta Pi National Scholar award and the Dean's Outstanding Merit Fellowship, a pre-graduate award at the University of Colorado-Boulder. She also has received a Putnam Scholarship. A 2006 graduate of Smoky Valley High School, she is the daughter of Richard and Mary Voigt, McPherson.