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Three doctoral students earn 2017 University Distinguished Professors Graduate Student Awards

Friday, June 9, 2017


MANHATTAN — Outstanding achievements in their academic work and scholarship have earned three Kansas State University doctoral students awards from the university's highest-ranking professors.

The winners of the University Distinguished Professors Graduate Student Awards are Stuart Miller, doctoral student in psychological sciences, Bettendorf, Iowa, who receives $4,000; Weldensie Embaye, doctoral student in agricultural economics, Eritrea, East Africa, who receives $3,000; and Bhupinder Sandhu, doctoral student in chemistry, Punjab, India, who receives $3,000.

They will be honored at a University Distinguished Professors Group meeting on Sept. 19.

The awards recognize graduate students who have shown exceptional achievement in their graduate studies and demonstrate excellence in scholarship through publications and other accomplishments appropriate for their academic fields. The University Distinguished Professors Group has established guidelines and criteria for the evaluation of candidates, and Carol Shanklin, dean of the Graduate School, coordinates the selection process.

Miller's dissertation is "Promoting Positive Interracial Contact Through Focusing on the Structural Rather Than the Individual Components of Racism." His research examines how interracial interactions between black individuals and white individuals can be structured to reduce the anxiety often experienced. When interracial anxiety is reduced, intergroup contact can improve interracial attitudes. Miller's goal is to improve interracial interactions while fostering motivations to address issues of social justice and the racial disparities that stratify our society. His advisor is Donald Saucier, professor of psychological sciences.

"Being awarded the University Distinguished Professors Graduate Student Award is extremely validating and a little overwhelming," Miller said. "I appreciate that the university distinguished professors recognize the great work that graduate students do to contribute to the scholarly excellence at K-State. I plan to use the funds from this award to get the training and resources for using physiological measures of stress in my research on the different factors that influence anxiety in intergroup interactions. Physiological indicators will allow me to measure stress responses that may not be detectable through cognitive or behavioral measures, and these measures will add greater confidence in my findings."

Embaye's dissertation is "Farm Technical Efficiency and Economic Development." His research looks at identifying the most appropriate methods for evaluation of agricultural development programs. Embaye will evaluate the impact of agricultural extension programs on farm productivity and development, and study how these methods could be used on other related agricultural development programs. His advisor is Jason Bergtold, professor and graduate program director of agricultural economics.

"It is a great honor to receive this award," Embaye said. "It encourages me to put more effort into my research and helps bolster my career so others can see the contribution of my research. The award funds will be used to cover costs for travel expenses to attend and present at the International Association of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural and Applied Economics Association conferences."

Sandhu's dissertation is "Crystal Engineering From Fundamentals to Applications." Her research seeks to develop reliable and transferable guidelines for how molecules recognize each other, and how they subsequently aggregate and form crystalline materials. A large number of potentially beneficial cancer drugs and other pharmaceutically active ingredients fail simply because of their poor solubility in water. Sandhu is developing a technology based on co-crystals that may allow physical properties to be "dialed-in," thereby providing opportunities for more drugs to reach clinical trials. Her advisor is Christer Aakeroy, university distinguished professor of chemistry.

"I feel extremely honored and appreciative for receiving a 2017 University Distinguished Professors Graduate Student Award," Sandhu said. "This award has encouraged me to keep moving forward with my future endeavors in my research work and to keep working hard each day. The funding from the award will allow me to travel to Cambridge, U.K., to visit the Cambridge Crystallographic Database Center, which is a leader in education, materials production and development of software for pharmaceutical research. I will get an opportunity to interact with other researchers working on developing new tools to predict and understand structure and stability of pharmaceutically important and complex molecules."

"We are pleased to partner with the Office of the Vice President for Research to recognize and encourage outstanding graduate students,” said Gary Pierzynski, president of the University Distinguished Professors Group. "Graduate Students are essential to the research and creative activities at K-State."

The awards are made possible through a combination of donations from individual university distinguished professors and support from the university's vice president for research.


Graduate School

News tip

Bettendorf, Iowa

Written by

Kelsey Peterson