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K-State News
Kansas State University
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Three doctoral students earn UDP Graduate Student Awards

Monday, Sept. 14, 2020



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 will be recognized at the University Distinguished Professors Group meeting on Sept. 15. Recipients are Matthew Galliart, doctoral candidate in biology, Hutchinson; Hayley Fisher, doctoral candidate in psychology, Nashville, Tennessee; and Simran Bawa, doctoral candidate in biochemistry, India.

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

Galliart received a $2,500 award to support his research. His dissertation is "Ecotype variation in big bluestem across the Great Plains' climate gradient." This research focuses on characterizing natural variation in growth, form and function in the dominant prairie grass big bluestem, with a main focus on drought tolerance.

"The ultimate goal of this research is to identify the genomic basis for drought tolerance to better understand how big bluestem will ultimately respond to the future drier climate predicted throughout the Great Plains due to climate change," Galliart said.

Galliart wants to advance understanding of local adaptation of the dominant prairie grass, big bluestem, to provide scientifically informed recommendations for conservation and restoration plantings for rangelands and prairies in the face of climate change. His major professor is Loretta Johnson, professor of biology.

Fisher received a $5,000 award to support her research. Her dissertation is "The role of a thalamocortical circuit in neural compensation in a novel devaluation task in rats." Her research confirms whether neural compensation between two prefrontal cortex regions occurs in a novel devaluation task developed by her research team that models goal-directed decision-making.

"My research also aims to determine one way the compensation could occur to provide a more holistic view of how neural circuits dynamically change to respond to alterations in the environment and how this system is dysfunctional in neuropsychiatric conditions," Fisher said.

Fisher's research can help provide reliable behavioral methods to predict and delay disease state onset in humans, leading to better functional outcomes in difficult to treat disorders like schizophrenia. Fisher's advisor is Charles Pickens, assistant professor of psychological sciences.

Bawa received a $2,500 award to support her research. Her dissertation is "Altered metabolism in TRIM32-deficient tissues." Her research on the process of tissue and organ growth focuses on the expression of Drosophila TRIM32. Previous work with her research team found that loss of Drosophila TRIM32 is associated with smaller muscles with progressive tissue degeneration in patients with a type of muscular dystrophy.

"It was assumed that this reduced cell size was a secondary consequence of muscle deterioration," Bawa said. "We made the surprising discovery that loss of TRIM32 reduces glycolytic flux, thus limiting the ability of cells to produce cellular building blocks required for growth."

Bawa's research provides a better understanding of TRIM32 functions, which may lead to therapeutic interventions to either increase cell size in patients with mutations in TRIM32 or to limit the growth of cancers that overexpress TRIM32. Bawa's major professor is Erika Geisbrecht, professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics.

"I congratulate Ms. Fisher, Ms. Bawa and Mr. Galliart upon being named recipients of the University Distinguished Professors' Graduate Student Award," said Mary Beth Kirkham, president of the University Distinguished Professors Group. The university distinguished professors are pleased to support their outstanding research. We also appreciate the funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research, which makes the awards possible. The students' research not only advances knowledge but also recognizes Kansas State University for its excellent doctoral program."

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.

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Hutchinson, Kansas, and Nashville, Tennessee


University Distinguished Professors Graduate Student Awards


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Matthew Galliart
Matthew Galliart is the recipient of a $2,500 University Distinguished Professors Graduate Student Award.

Download the following photo.

Hayley Fisher
Hayley Fisher is the recipient of a $5,000 University Distinguished Professors Graduate Student Award.

Download the following photo.

Simran Bawa
Simran Bawa is the recipient of a $2,500 University Distinguished Professors Graduate Student Award.