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K-State Today

September 17, 2019

Four doctoral students awarded University Distinguished Graduate Student Awards for 2019

Submitted by Graduate School

Outstanding achievements in their academic work and scholarship has earned four Kansas State University graduate students awards from the university's highest-ranking professors.

Anastasia Cooper, doctoral candidate in entomology; Hojjatollah Fallahi, doctoral candidate in electrical and computer engineering; Jun Li, doctoral candidate in biological and agricultural engineering; and Santiago Tamagno, doctoral candidate in agronomy, all of Manhattan, will each receive a $2,500 award to support their research.

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.

Cooper's dissertation is "Molecular mechanisms influencing RNA interference efficiency in the European corn borer and western corn rootworm." Cooper is using a comparative approach to investigate factors that make beetles, such as the western corn rootworm, more amenable to RNA interference than Lepidopterans, such as the European corn borer. This approach could facilitate the development of RNA interference-based pest management strategies. Cooper's advisor is Kun Yan Zhu, university distinguished professor of entomology.

Fallahi's dissertation is "Antenna and system design for controlled delivery of microwave thermal ablation." This research involves the development of technologies for precise and controlled delivery of microwave power to biological tissue for diverse therapeutic applications. This work could result in more accurate simulation models for microwave ablation devices. Fallahi's advisor is Punit Prakash, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Li's dissertation is "Biomass pretreatment by metal oxides for reducing sugar degradation and water consumption in biofuel production." The goal is to establish a new path for biomass pretreatment for cost-effective and high-efficient production of cellulosic biofuel. Donghai Wang, professor of biological and agricultural engineering, is Li's advisor.

Tamagno's dissertation is "Study of biological nitrogen fixation, plant nitrogen demand and physiological processes involved on seed yield and quality formation in soybeans." The goal of this research is to quantify the seasonal dynamics of biological nitrogen fixation during the growing season and to evaluate the effects of nitrogen fertilization on seed yield and the protein content in the soybean. Tamagno's advisor is Ignacio Ciampitti, associate professor of agronomy.

The funds from the awards will be used to support travel to national and international conferences to present their research and network with researchers in their discipline and explore career opportunities. Some recipients use their research to conduct research in national and international laboratories.

"The university distinguished professors are pleased to provide support for these outstanding graduate students, with awards to assist in the excellent scholarship they are carrying out in their doctoral programs," said Michael Kanost, university distinguished professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics and president of the University Distinguished Professors Group.

The University Distinguished Professors Graduate Student 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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