Graduate Student Excellence-in-Research Award

Initiated in 1999, the Graduate Student Excellence-in-Research Awards recognize the quality and significance of graduate student scholarship at the University of Georgia. These awards may be given in five areas: Fine Arts, Humanities and Letters, Life Sciences, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and  Applied Studies.

2020 Recipients

Yingjia Chen, who graduated with a Ph.D. in toxicology in August 2019, is a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. She studies health impacts of the Western diet, which is characterized by high levels of glycation products from red meats, high-fat dairy and refined grains. Chen’s research shows that introducing food-derived proteins known as early glycation products (EGPs) into a mouse diet decreased the incidence of type 1 diabetes in mice and increased the survival rate of aged male mice with autoimmune prostatitis, strongly suggesting a potential application as “medical food.” She and her collaborators also showed that consumption of cellulose nanofibrils, which are used in food packaging and have potential use as non-caloric ingredients in foods, reduced the intestinal absorption of nutrients and resulted in negative health consequences.

Erinn Duprey, who graduated with a Ph.D. in human development and family science in May 2019, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide at University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. She studies the developmental antecedents of psychopathology among youth. Generating transdisciplinary ideas and integrating behavioral, socioemotional and psychophysiological data, she investigates impacts of childhood maltreatment on psychopathology, suicide risk, and resilience in adolescence and young adulthood. Duprey’s research suggests that adolescent suicide-prevention efforts may benefit from identifying youth who exhibit comorbid internalizing (depressive and anxious) and externalizing (aggressive and disruptive) psychopathology. Her studies reveal that therapeutic interventions designed to bolster self-esteem and emotion regulation may reduce suicide risk for emerging adults with a history of childhood maltreatment. Duprey’s scholarly work has been published in top peer-reviewed journals, and she has presented more than a dozen first- and co-authored research projects at national conferences.

Kyle Mattingly, who graduated with a Ph.D. in geography in August 2019, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Rutgers University Institute of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. His work has already contributed to greater understanding of the Greenland ice sheet’s role within the climate system and its impact on global sea level. Awarded a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship, he has helped identify the role of “atmospheric rivers” on the rate of the ice sheet’s melting. Mattingly’s research revealed that unusually intense atmospheric rivers transporting massive amounts of water vapor to Greenland from lower latitudes are driving extreme melt events that reach the highest elevations of the ice sheet. Now he and his colleagues are examining the role of atmospheric rivers on sea ice melt in the Weddell Sea near Antarctica. He is co-author of nine peer-reviewed studies and recipient of multiple awards for his research presentations.

Lauren O’Connor-Korb, who graduated with an MFA in 2019, is a lecturer at the University of Georgia. Acknowledging that technology plays a growing role in our intimate relationships and serves as a repository for our most sensitive information, her work explores an evolving tendency to integrate ourselves (willingly and unwillingly) with machines and how this process changes the way we communicate with one another. She integrates robotics, speakers and sensors with other digital technologies, creating sculptures that resemble common, low-tech objects such as hat stands, exit signs and musical instruments. This method allows O’Connor-Korb to question entanglements with the technological “other” within the framework of shared cultural symbols. Borrowing from comedy and stage magic, she creates sculptural test cases that play out anxieties and fears about how technological creations might render humans obsolete. O’Connor-Korb was awarded the International Sculpture Center’s Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award for 2019.

Xinlian Zhang, who graduated with a Ph.D. in statistics in May 2019, is an assistant professor in residence in the Division of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at the University of California at San Diego. With a research breadth that is highly unusual among her peers, Xinlian and her partners are improving statistical models to address complex questions and making significant contributions to a wide range of research topics, including mainstream statistics, machine learning, epigenetics and genomics. She has collaborated on statistical analyses with a zebrafish retina development lab that could benefit drug discovery for retinal degeneration. She has also assisted her research colleagues by developing methods to improve mathematical analyses for rapid empirical feedback systems and to make better use of currently available computing power. A co-author of 12 peer-reviewed articles with several more submitted for publication, she has served as referee for many papers in a variety of statistics and bioinformatics journals.

Past Recipients