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.

2018 Recipients

Kyle Benowitz, a doctoral graduate in genetics, has distinguished himself as one of the top researchers applying molecular studies to evolutionary aspects of animal behavior. He has published several papers in top journals examining species-specific aspects of behavior in two species of burying beetles. His dissertation produced a major paper published in Evolution, the leading journal in his field, in which he examines variation in transcription among the most divergent individuals in a population. He developed strong bioinformatics skills and pioneered the use of unusual and sophisticated methods that allowed him to look for subtle transcription variation. His novel approach and paper have been highlighted by Evolution’s “Digest” section. Although his Ph.D. was performed in the laboratory, he was willing and able to visit field stations to collect beetles and has proved a talented observer of behavior. He is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona.

Dan Du, a recent doctoral candidate in history, combines analytical methods drawn from economics, cultural studies, and material culture in an extraordinarily innovative way. Her dissertation examined the impacts of the Sino-American tea trade from 1784 through the early 20th century. During this era, global commodity markets became more integrated, European powers established colonies or foreign concessions in Chinese coastal cities, and Western consumers increasingly used exotic Asian foodstuffs. Her pathbreaking work traces the commodity chain through a huge cast of characters from peasant producers who grew the tea, men who transported it, workers who processed the leaves, Canton tea merchants (and American and British buyers), to American retailers and consumers. Unlike previous work in this field, her dissertation is culturally sensitive to Chinese, Americans and Europeans alike. Outside foundations, understanding the significance of her research, have repeatedly granted her predoctoral fellowships. She now holds a one-year visiting position at Wake Forest University.

Danielle Jensen-Ryan, a recent doctoral candidate in anthropology, is recognized for her innovative work in environmental policy. She asks fundamental but previously neglected questions about how policy decisions are made and where science might belong—if at all—in the hierarchy of influences. In her dissertation, she integrated two methods typically applied in isolation: a meta-synthesis of published case study data in Georgia to explore the formal features of a science-policy interface and ethnographic research to understand the informal factors shaping water policy. Her current work includes an ethnographic analysis of three case studies, allowing her to explore the internal dynamics of Georgia’s water-policy process. In another study, she found an outsized influence of informal factors on water-policy outcomes with decisions guided by social capital, established relationships and existing power relations. After her postdoc, she will serve as grants director with the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center Foundation to help fund health care programs in Wyoming.

Joseph Kindler, a recent doctoral graduate in foods and nutrition, has created a body of work that is already influencing the field of nutrition and bone health on an international scale, publishing as the lead or co-author on nine peer-reviewed publications. His innovative research suggests that obesity and Type 2 diabetes progression in childhood might adversely influence bone health. His most recent manuscript published in Calcified Tissues International demonstrated in a case-control design that obese adolescents have inferior bone strength compared to non-obese adolescents, challenging the common belief that obesity is protective of bone. Kindler has developed sophisticated skills in numerous laboratory techniques, including bone and body composition imaging, cardiovascular health assessment and structural equation modeling statistical techniques. He is now a postdoctoral trainee at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Jonathon Vandezande, a recent doctoral candidate in computational and quantum chemistry, has established a record of distinction in both academics and independent research. With a creative understanding of how to overcome scientific challenges, he has shown a strong ability to bring chemical insight into reaction mechanisms. During his time at UGA, he co-authored four papers on the design of catalysts for the reduction of carbon dioxide, and he has recently published another manuscript on the mechanistic pathway of the catalyst. He also collaborated extensively with experimentalists, using computations to illuminate their results. He continues to tackle new challenges as shown by his recent research on spin-orbit splitting in p-block elements. His work with the developmental computer code (BAGEL) indicates an ability to tackle complex problems, helping developers improve their code and learn the intricacies of relativistic quantum mechanics. He is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute für Kohlenforschung in Mulheim an der Ruhr, Germany.

Past Recipients