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Spring 2010

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News Just In! NAU Biology Students Winning Nationally

1. Luke Evans (PHD Biology and Science Foundation Arizona Fellow) received a $15,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant. DDIG grants provide partial support to participate in scientific meetings, conduct research in specialized facilities or field settings, and expand an existing body of dissertation research.

Evans' research examines the web of interactions between select plants and insects. He will be able to identify the portion of the cottonwood genome responsible for the interactions that occur between cottonwood trees and the insects that use them as a natural resource. Because his research will be conducted over a broad range of environmental conditions, it will also address how climate change impacts these processes. This relatively new field combines ecology with modern genetics and is often called "Community and Ecosystem Genetics."

2. Cindy Liu (PhD Biology) was selected for a P.E.O. Scholar Award. She was nominated through the DO chapter (Sedona) and will receive $15,000 as a one-time scholarship. Scholar awards are competitive, merit-based awards for women of the U.S. and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral degree or postdoctoral research.

Liu is performing health-related “translational research” which seeks to translate advancements in basic science research into impactful applications for public health and clinical settings. Her work studies the paranasal sinus, the adenoid, and the middle ear with a focus on comparing the microbial communities from individuals without disease and individuals with chronic, recalcitrant infections.

3. Robert Miranda (PhD Biology) has been recommended for a Environmental Protection Agency Star Fellowship of $34,000 per year for three years, covering stipend, tuition, and expenses. The STAR graduate fellowship program supports master’s and doctoral candidates in environmental studies.

Miranda studies how environmental pollutants affect hormone-regulated vertebrate social behaviors and related gene expression in the brain. In order to evaluate these impacts, he uses frog calling behavior as a model system. Because the mechanisms regulating social behavior are conserved in vertebrates, his work has implications for other wildlife and humans who may be exposed to pollutants in the environment.

4. Lucy Mullin (PhD Biology) was awarded a Dept. of Energy Graduate Fellowship of $50,000 per year for three years. Only 4.6 percent of the 3,200 applicants were awarded fellowships. The award provides partial tuition support, an annual stipend for living expenses, and a research stipend for full-time graduate study and thesis/dissertation research.

Mullin is investigating how restoration-thinning management practices affect seasonal water use and carbon sequestration patterns in southwestern ponderosa pine forests. She uses stable isotope analyses of xylem sap water to study current tree seasonal water use and of cellulose to study  tree seasonal water-use patterns of the past. To assess carbon sequestration she is developing a whole-tree growth model pre- and post-thinning by looking at annual growth rates at various locations throughout old-growth ponderosas, including the treetops and roots.


Music Grad Student Awarded $15,000 Scholarship

Hesham Elnagar

One Northern Arizona University student’s hard work and civic engagement literally paid off by way of a $15,000 scholarship from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. In December 2009, Hesham Elnagar, a graduate student in NAU’s musicology program, was selected for the society’s competitive 15th Anniversary Scholarship as a “passionate, engaged citizen…who takes deliberate action to impact his community in a positive way.”

Elnagar, a native of Henderson, Nevada, graduated summa cum laude from NAU in May 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in music, following a decorated career as an undergraduate student. He was one of only 60 students nationwide named to the 2009 USA Today's All-USA College Academic Team program for his research and efforts to promote community service, volunteerism and civic engagement among college students.

“Service learning is a passion of mine because of the avenues students, community members, and educators can take in connecting all citizens of a community or society with the needs of that society,” Elnagar said.

Elnagar is an Ambassadorial Scholar for the 2009-2010 scholarship period in New Zealand, where he will complete a master’s degree in education. In preparation for his studies abroad, Elnagar researched and developed presentations relating to his senior thesis on civic engagement and service-learning in American higher education. He is using this research to engage in educational and service-related activities to introduce new pedagogical ideas to various clubs, communities, and students of all ages and backgrounds.

"Hesham’s passion for service learning and education express the ideals we hope to encourage in our members,” said Stephen E. Loflin, founder and executive director of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. “We are very proud to be able to provide financial support to help him achieve his goals.”