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K-State Today

May 2, 2022

Division of Biology names most promising students

Submitted by Nancy Thompson

Ten sophomores and juniors in biology; microbiology; and fisheries, wildlife, conservation, and environmental biology recently received the Division of Biology's 2021-2022 Most Promising Student Awards.

Faculty nominated students for the award. Grades, rigor of academic program, extracurricular activities, recommendations by faculty and performance in an interview were factors used to determine the award winners. Division of Biology faculty sponsor the Most Promising Student award and consider it to be one of the greatest honors bestowed on biology students at K-State. The winners are an accomplished group of students representing the breadth of biology in their interests.

The following students are recipients of the 2022 Division of Biology Most Promising Student Award:

Ashlyn Bugbee is a junior in microbiology with a minor in leadership studies from Wichita. She is conducting research on cell-mediated immunity with Kalani Pyaram. Bugbee serves as a member of Biology Ambassadors and is a patient mentor to beginning biology students. She plans to pursue a career in medicine and research.

Elizabeth "Ellie" Fangman is a junior in biology with minors in psychology and gender, women, and sexuality studies from Bucyrus. She works with Bethany Plakke Anderson in the psychological sciences department to understand the neurobiology of autism. Fangman served as secretary for the Biology Ambassadors this year and will be the vice president in the coming year. Fangman is planning a career in medicine.

Cole King is a junior in biology with a minor in Spanish from Topeka. He is a member of the University Honors Program. He works in Bethany Plakke Anderson’s lab in the psychological sciences department, where he is investigating the relationship between exercise and brain plasticity. King plays cello with the university symphony and small ensembles. He is a member of Biology Ambassadors, serves as a mentor for incoming students and will be the mentorship chair of the ambassadors’ group in the upcoming year. He is planning a career in medicine.

Regan Konz is a junior in microbiology from Hays. She works in Charles Rice’s research group in agronomy, where she is investigating the effects of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in the soil microbial community. An impetus for her interest in the soil microbial community is the potential to isolate useful drugs for human medicine from soil microbes. Konz interned with a St. Louis company that is discovering and developing drugs.

Juliet Nava-Chavez is a junior in biology and psychology from Liberal. Nava-Chavez is doing research with Rob DeLong in the anatomy and physiology department in the College of Veterinary Medicine, where she is working to develop nanoparticles for use in biomedicine. She has co-authored a published scientific paper on therapeutic nanoparticles targeting SARS-CoV2 variants. Nava-Chavez is a member of Biology Ambassadors. She plans a career in medicine or research.

Grace Nelson is a sophomore in biology-human health option from Olathe. She is a member of the University Honors Program. She does neuroscience research with Kimberly Kirkpatrick in the psychological sciences department. She plans to spend the upcoming summer gaining more neuroscience research experience at Louisiana State University. She serves as learning assistant for a residential CAT Community, which involves being both a life coach and academic mentor for freshmen in pre-medicine during their first semester at K-State. Nelson plans a career in neuroscience research.

Kalea Nippert is a sophomore majoring in biology and environmental science from Wamego. She works as a research technician with the Konza Prairie Long-term Ecological Research program. Nippert served as an intern in a U.S. Department of Agriculture project on rangeland carbon sequestration in Oregon. In the coming summer, she will be investigating shrub invasions of the prairie with Zak Ratajczak. She is an active participant in Engineers without Borders, which focuses on international humanitarian work. 

Ashley Panagakis is a junior majoring in biology with a secondary major in integrated health studies from Shawnee. She works with Kathrin Schrick in biology and studies how transcription factors that bind lipids regulate organismal growth. She is a certified nurse’s aide, volunteers with the Riley County Health Department and has over 1,000 hours of experience in direct patient care. Panagakis is considering a career in the area of human health.

Irit Yamilet "Yami" Sanchez is a junior majoring in biology and modern languages from Scott City. Sanchez is an active member of the Hispanic American Leadership Organization, dedicated to promoting Hispanic culture on campus and in the community. She is founder and president of Latinas United Powerful and Educated. Sanchez has worked extensively to support the journey of low-income students as they integrate into the K-State community. Sanchez plans a career in medicine.

Sydney Tobis is a sophomore majoring in biology from Overland Park. After working for the Laboratory Animal Care Service at K-State, Tobis joined the lab of Jocelyn McDonald in biology, where she is studying how groups of cells move together through tissues and organs. She is president of Wildcats against Sexual Violence and serves as a mentor to beginning biology students. She is interested in pursuing a career in medicine.

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