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Sources: Thu Annelise Nguyen, 785-532-4429,;
Derek Schneweis,
Photos available. Download at and
Cutline information: Dorith Rotenberg, research assistant professor of plant pathology. It's courtesy of the Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research.
News release prepared by: Kayela Richard, 785-532-1546,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


MANHATTAN -- A breast cancer researcher and a student who is studying a virus through a new branch of vector biology are being honored for their efforts in continuing and encouraging research excellence at Kansas State University.

Thu Annelise Nguyen, assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, is the recipient of the 2011 University Distinguished Faculty Award for the Mentoring of Undergraduate Students in Research, which includes $2,500 and a plaque. The award is based on mentoring performed in the previous academic year.

Derek Schneweis, May 2011 bachelor's graduate in biology and anthropology, Monument, Colo., is the recipient of the University Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Student in Research. He receives $1,000 and a plaque. The award was established to recognize outstanding contributions by an undergraduate student to the discovery and creation of new knowledge at K-State.

Nguyen joined K-State in 2001 as a postdoctoral fellow. Her breast cancer research has led to the discovery and patent of a drug that eliminates breast cancer cells. She also mentors several undergraduate students who are directly involved with her research, involving them in the entire process.

"As K-State works toward becoming a top 50 public research university by 2025, our faculty play a key role by encouraging and mentoring undergraduates who want to do research," said April Mason, provost and senior vice president. "Dr. Nguyen's dedication to not only making a place for undergraduates in her lab, but mentoring their efforts as well, help make her one of K-State's truly outstanding faculty members."

"I enjoy working with students very much," Nguyen said. "They get to understand a little bit about the human body and about the impact of the disease."

She started doing research as an undergraduate and believes it's important to pay it forward and that the early exposure in the lab helps better prepare students.

"I have a basic affinity for mentoring students because I was the product of these kind of programs," she said. "I take that chance with students because someone took a chance on me. When I joined graduate school I knew exactly what I was supposed to do and there were no surprises because I was accustomed to it already. I like to expose the students to that kind of environment so they can figure out if this is the path they want before jumping into a graduate program. It's a long commitment, so before they make that decision I expose them to the research environment."

Nguyen earned a bachelor's in molecular and cell biology and a doctorate in toxicology from Texas A&M University.

As an undergraduate research assistant, Schneweis has worked with plant pathogenic viruses and the arthropod vectors that transmit these viruses to crop plants. His molecular biology research to identify insect genes that may play a role in insect defense against viral infection has led to an opportunity to continue his research as a graduate student in plant pathology at K-State.

"Derek's outstanding research work as an undergraduate is a tribute to his hard work and K-State's emphasis on providing the opportunities, help and incentives for our students to excel at every level," Mason said. "He is truly deserving of this honor."

Schneweis' undergraduate research mentor, Dorith Rotenberg, research assistant professor of plant pathology and member of K-State's Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research faculty, has invited Schneweis to join her lab as a doctoral student.

"She knows how to construct an undergraduate research project that is applicable toward lab objectives," Schneweis said. "When undergraduate students actively participate in the various research initiatives in the lab, the collaboration is mutually beneficial."

In addition to his research, Schneweis has been included as an author on a peer-reviewed research publication. He has also received two undergraduate research awards from the Johnson cancer research center, a Kansas Academy of Science Undergraduate Research Award, a K-State Arthropod Genomics Student Travel Grant and the Harriet and Martin Ottenheimer Central States Scholarship.