Research

Scholars of Excellence

Each year, the Office of Graduate Studies recognizes students whose academic excellence and scholarly contributions have contributed significantly to the national and international reputation of USF. We express our gratitude for all that they do for the university as students.

Watch the 2021 Chih Foundation Research & Publication Award and Scholars of Excellence Ceremony, held on Wednesday, November 17, 2021:
Click to view the Program


Chih Foundation Research & Publication Award

The Chih Foundation seeks to support exceptional third- or fourth-year Science, Engineering or Medicine PhD, PharmD, or MD students who are conducting transformative research with potential to advance health science. Through their generosity, the Chih Foundation Research & Publication Award provides a $2,500 monetary award to exemplary scholars that reflect these qualities.

2021 Chih Foundation Research & Publication Award Recipients

Melissa Bikowitz

Melissa Bikowitz (Molecular Medicine)
Research Focus: Using structure-based drug design to develop potential cancer therapeutics by targeting proteins involved in oncogenesis
Co-Mentors: Ernst Schonbrunn and Yu Chen

"I study two classes of oncogenic proteins for drug development: bromodomains and fusion tyrosine kinases (FTKs). Bromodomains are epigenetic readers and recruit partners for gene transcription. I use a structure-based drug design approach to selectively target certain bromodomain-containing proteins that can be explored as potential cancer therapeutics for patients with hematological malignancies containing c-Myc amplifications, in addition to other cancers.

The second focus is FTKs which are aberrant kinases that result from DNA translocation of a tyrosine kinase domain C-terminally juxtaposed to an N-terminal domain of a different protein, rendering the resulting FTK constitutively active. Structural information on any FTK is unknown, without which a rational drug design approach towards the development of selective and efficacious inhibitors is less feasible. I work on structural determination and biochemical characterization of FTKs with clinically used ATP-site directed inhibitors for drug development."

Ausmita Sarker

Ausmita Sarker (Computer Science & Engineering)
Research Focus: Hardware security and cryptographic engineering
Mentor: Mehran Mozaffari Kermani

"The advent of quantum computers ensures that computationally infeasible mathematical problems can be solved efficiently using the physical properties of matter and energy. Computational infeasibility, i.e., mathematical problems which will take more than a human lifetime to solve, is the basis of classical cryptosystems. The exponential speed-up of quantum computation will render classical cryptosystems useless, as that can solve current encryptions in minutes, resulting in a catastrophic failure of privacy preservation and data security. Thus, quantum-resistant encryption schemes need to be developed, because many experts predict that within 20 years, quantum computers can break into current encryption infrastructures. My research is to develop cryptosystems that countermeasure against side-channel attacks and protect post-quantum cryptosystems against adversaries, ensuring secured data. Additionally, our architectures can also detect natural faults, caused by device malfunctions, which are crucial to proper functionalities of sensitive medical applications, e.g., pacemakers, ring heart rate monitors, and Bluetooth-based ECG monitors."

Veena Subramanian

Veena Subramanian (Cell Biology, Microbiology, & Molecular Biology)
Research Focus: Characterization of novel cellular functions of BLM helicase
Mentor: Kristina Schmidt

"Bloom syndrome is a rare genetic disorder associated with extreme cancer predisposition –approximately 300-fold above the general population. Affected individuals have premature aging like symptoms and a lifespan shortened to an average of 27 years due to death from often multiple primary cancers. There are no known actionable therapeutic targets nor a cure for Bloom syndrome.

My work in Dr.Kristina Schmidt's lab is focused on identification and characterization of novel cellular functions of the BLM protein which is defective in Bloom syndrome patients. Through two independent studies we identified that the BLM protein plays a major role in regulating DNA replication and mitochondrial homeostasis. Our findings provide functional insights into novel roles of BLM in the maintenance of genome integrity and sheds light on general mechanisms leading to genome instability which are often associated with human cancers and heritable chromosome breakage syndromes. A better understanding of BLM functions will not only pave the way for drug development but will provide a better understanding of the disease in general."


Past Chih Foundation Research & Publication Award Winners

2020

Name Department College
Michael Sacco Molecular Medicine Morsani College of Medicine
Karthick Mayilsamy Molecular Medicine Morsani College of Medicine

2019

Name Department College
Anthony Sanchez Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology College of Arts and Sciences

Fall 2018

Name Department College
Jeremy Baker Molecular Medicine Morsani College of Medicine

Spring 2018

Name Department College
Longwei Wang Electrical Engineering College of Engineering
Bi Zhao Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology College of Arts and Sciences

2017

Name Department College
Mengqiu Wang Marine Science College of Marine Science

2016

Name Department College
Andy Weiss Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology College of Arts and Sciences

Outstanding Dissertation Award

The Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation (OTD) Award recognizes graduate alumni whose research exemplifies the highest quality. The award recognizes those USF graduates who have demonstrated exceptional performance and whose thesis or dissertation has resulted in a significant impact to the discipline at the national level.

2021 Outstanding Dissertation Award Recipients

blank-photo

 

Michelle Guitard (Marine Science)
Ocean Forcing of Quaternary East Antarctic Ice Sheet Evolution: An Ice-Proximal Sedimentary Perspective
Major Professor: Amelia Shevenell

 

 

Sheikh Ariful Islam

 

Sheikh Ariful Islam (Computer Science)
Behavioral and RT-Level Synthesis of Secure Nano VLSI Digital ASIC Designs
Major Professor: Srinivas Katkoori

 

 

Stephanie Phillips

 

Stephanie Phillips (English)
The Power of Non-Compliant Logos: A New Materialist Approach to Comic Studies
Major Professor: Meredith Johnson

 

 


2021 Outstanding Thesis Award Recipient

Sarah Schmid

 

Sarah Schmid (Integrative Biology)
Novel CO2 Transporters from Autotrophic Bacteria from Extreme Environments
Major Professor: Kathleen Scott

 

 

Past Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award Winners

2021

Name Major Type
Michelle Guitard Marine Science Dissertation
Title: Ocean Forcing of Quaternary East Antarctic Ice Sheet Evolution: An Ice-Proximal Sedimentary Perspective
Sheikh Ariful Islam Computer Science Dissertation
Title: Behavioral and RT-Level Synthesis of Secure Nano VLSI Digital ASIC Designs 
Stephanie Phillips English Dissertation
Title: The Power of Non-Compliant Logos: A New Materialist Approach to Comic Studies
Sarah Schmid Integrative Biology Thesis
Title: Novel CO2 Transporters from Autotrophic Bacteria from Extreme Environments

2020

Name Major Type
Kadriye Merve Dogan Mechanical Engineering Dissertation
Title: Stable Adaptive Control Systems in the Presence of Unmodeled and Actuator
Fiona Kearns Chemistry Dissertation
Title: Development and Application of Computational Models for Biochemical Systems
Zeinab Motawe Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology Dissertation
Title: Functional Significance of Endothelial Sigma-1 Receptors in Vascular Reactivity and Barrier Function
Kristen Grafton English Thesis
Title: 9/11 Then and Now: How the Performance of Memorial Rhetoric by Presidents Changes to Construct Hero

2019

Name Major Type
Mengqiu Wang Marine Science Dissertation
Title: Spatial and Temporal Distributions of Pelagic Sargassum in the Intra-Americas Sea and Atlantic Ocean
Brent Kuenzi Cancer Chemical Biology Dissertation
Title: Off-Target Based Drug Repurposing Using Systems Pharmacology
Kim Miender Music Education Dissertation
Title: The Effects of a Self-Regulated Learning Music Practice Strategy Curriculum on Music Performance, Self-Regulation, Self-Efficacy, and Cognition
Dean Hobbis Physics Thesis
Title: A Fundamental Investigation into Low Thermal Conductivity P-Type Chalcogenides and Skutterudites with Potential Thermoelectric Applications

2018

Name Major Type
Brad Steele Physics Dissertation
Title: Computational Discovery of Energetic Polynitrogen Compounds at High Pressure
Renee Fleeman Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology Dissertation
Title: Discovering Antibacterial and Anti-Resistance Agents Targeting Multi-Drug Resistant ESKAPE Pathogens 
Kimberly French Psychology (Industrial-Organizational) Dissertation
Title: Episodic Work-Family Conflict and Strain: A Dynamic Perspective
Amanda Palmer Psychology (Clinical) Thesis
Title: Parsing the Influences of Nicotine and Expectancies on the Acute Effects of E-cigarettes: A Balanced Placebo Experiment 

2017

Name Major Type
Ashley Basiorka Cancer Biology Dissertation
Title: Changing the Pathobiological Paradigm in Myelodysplastic Syndromes: The NLRP3 Inflammasome Drives the MDS Phenotype
Jeremy Cohen Integrative Biology Dissertation
Title: Climate Change Drives Outbreaks of Emerging Infectious Disease and Phenological Shifts
Prerna Malaney Pathology Dissertation
Title: Significance of PTEN Phosphorylation and its Nuclear Function in Lung Cancer

2016

Name Major Type
Jacqueline L. Fries Chemistry Dissertation
Title: Chemical Investigation of Antarctic Marine Organisms & Their Role in Modern Drug Discovery
Nikita La Cruz Geosciences Thesis
Title: Schreibersite: Synthesis, Characterization and Corrosion and Possible Implications for Origin of Life
Kaya Wei Physics Dissertation
Title: Investigation of Low Thermal Conductivity Materials with Potential for Thermoelectric Applications
JungA (Alexa) Woo Molecular Medicine Dissertation
Title: Role of the Slingshot-Cofilin and RanBP9 Pathways in Alzheimer's Disease Pathogenesis

2015

Name Major Type
Aaron Craig Curriculum & Instruction Dissertation
Title: National Investigation of Pre-Activity Health Screening Procedures in Fitness Facilities: Perspectives from American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialists
Jayita Das Electrical Engineering Dissertation
Title: Auxiliary Roles in STT-MRAM Memory
Jianing Fu Cancer Biology Dissertation
Title: Targeting T-bet for Prevention of Graft-Versus-Host Disease and Leukemia Relapse after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
Robert Hardy Marine Science Thesis
Title: Assessments of Surface-Pelagic Drift Communities and Behavior of Early Juvenile Sea Turtles in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

2014

Name Major Type
Brian Barnes Marine Science Dissertation
Title: The Combined Effects of Light and Temperature on Coral Bleaching: A Case Study of the Florida Reef Tract Using Satellite Data
Taegan McMahon Integrative Biology Dissertation
Title: Effects of Pesticides and the Pathogenic Chytrid Fungus on Aquatic Organisms with an Emphasis on their Role in Amphibian Declines
Darrell Nicholson Creative Writing Thesis
Title: Waterborne
Hillary Seifert Molecular Pharmacology Dissertation
Title: The Inflammatory Response Initiated by the Spleen to Ischemic Stroke

2013

Name Major Type
Lyudmyla Adamska Physics

Dissertation

Title: Theory and Modeling of Graphene and Single Molecule Devices
Brian Dunst Philosophy Dissertation
Title: Embodying Social Practice: Dynamically Co-constituting Social Agency
Stefce Stefanoski Physics Dissertation
TItle: Synthesis and Physical Properties of Group 14 Intermetallic Clathrates
Claire Stephens English Thesis
Title: Split City Blues

2012

Name Major Type
Julia Galkiewicz Marine Science Dissertation
Title: Microbial Ecology and Functional Genomics of Deep-Water Coral-Associated Microbes
Cristina Mazza Geography, Environment, & Planning Thesis
Title: The Influence of Meteorological Parameters on Rainfall and Severe Weather in Pinellas County, FL
Cecelia Padros Applied Anthropology Dissertation
Title: The Participation of NGOs in Healthcare: The Case of Pediatric Cancer Treatment in Argentina
Adrian Popescu Applied Physics Dissertation
Title: Carbon Nanotubes Interactions: Theory and Applications

2011

Name Major Type
Huijuan Chen Chemical Engineering Dissertation
Title: The Conversion of Low-Grade Heat into Power Using Supercritical Rankine Cycles
Jason Lewis Applied Physics Dissertation
Title: Device Physics of Solution Processable Solar Cells
Javier Pulecio Electrical Engineering Dissertation
Title: Field-Coupled Nano-Magnetic Logic Systems
Matthew Tucker Public Health Dissertation
Title: Phenotypic and Genotypic Analysis of In Vitro Selected Artemisinin Resistant Plasmodium falciparum

2010

Name Major Type
Koutstav Bhattacharya Computer Science & Engineering Dissertation
Title: Architectures and Algorithms for Mitigation of Soft Errors in Nanoscale VLSI Circuits
Michael Conroy Applied Physics Dissertation
Title: Density Functional Theory Studies of Energetic Materials
Sabrina Hughes Art History Thesis
Title: Empty Streets in the Capital of Modernity: Formation of Lieux de Mémoire in Parisian Street Photography From Daguerre to Atget
Scott Segro Chemistry Dissertation
Title: Surface-Bonded Sol-Gel Sorbents for On-Line Hyphenation of Capillary Microextraction with High-Performance Liquid Chromatography

2009

Name Major Type
Matt Beekman Applied Physics Dissertation
Title: Fundamental Investigations on Open-Framework Intermetallic Materials of Group 14
Angela Gilbert Geography Thesis
Title: Air Toxics and Equity: A Geographic Analysis of Environmental Health Risks in Florida
Vishnu Nanduri Industrial Engineering Dissertation
Title: Generation Capacity Expansion in Restructured Energy Markets
Praveen Sekhar Electrical Engineering Dissertation
Title: Nanomanufacturing of Silica Nanowires: Synthesis, Characterization and Applications

2008

Name Major Type
Shayam Aravamudhan Electrical Engineering Thesis
Title: Development of Micro/Nanosensor Elements and Packaging Techniques for Oceanography
Upavan Gupta Computer Science & Engineering Dissertation
Title: Utilitarian Approaches for Multi-Metric Optimization in VLSI Circuit Design and Spatial Cluster 
Rebecca Kinkade Davis Cancer Biology Dissertation
Title: Rb-Raf-1 Interaction as a Therapeutic Target for Proliferative
Luca Lai Applied Anthropology Dissertation
Title: The Interplay of Economics, Climatic and Cultural Change Investigated Through Isotopic Analyses of Bone Tissue: The Case of Sardinia 4000-1900 BC 

Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor Award

The Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor Award recognizes USF graduate faculty who demonstrate the highest level of quality in the mentoring of graduate students in teaching, research, and service.

2021 Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award Recipient

Yu ChenImage courtesy of USF Health

 

Yu Chen
Molecular Medicine
Morsani College of Medicine

 

 


2021 Outstanding Graduate Mentor Honorable Mentions

Aisha Durham

 

Aisha Durham
Communication
College of Arts and Sciences

 

 

 

Jerome BreslinImage courtesy of USF Health

 

Jerome Breslin
Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology
Morsani College of Medicine

 

 

 

Past Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award Winners

2021

Award Name Discipline College

Recipient

Yu Chen Molecular Medicine Morsani College of Medicine
Honorable Mention Aisha Durham Communication College of Arts and Sciences
Honorable Mention Jerome Breslin Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology Morsani College of Medicine

2020

Award Name Discipline College
Recipient Jianfeng Cai Chemistry College of Arts and Sciences
Honorable Mention Robert Dedrick Educational Measurement and Research  College of Education
Honorable Mention Robert Frisina Biomedical Engineering College of Engineering

2019

Award Name Discipline College
Recipient Chuanmin Hu Professor of Marine Science College of Marine Science
Honorable Mention Valerie Harwood Professor of Integrative Biology College of Arts and Sciences
Honorable Mention Raymond Miltenberger Professor of Applied Behavior Analysis College of Behavioral and Community Sciences

2018

Award Name Discipline College
Recipient Les Shaw Professor of CMMB College of Arts and Sciences
Honorable Mention Kathy Hyer Professor of Aging Studies College of Behavioral and Community Sciences
Honorable Mention Rasim Guldiken Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering College of Engineering

2017

Award Name Discipline College
Recipient C. Victor Fung Professor of Music Education College of The Arts
Honorable Mention Jonathan Rottenberg Professor of Psychology College of Arts and Sciences

2016

Award Name Discipline College
Recipient Pamela Hallock Muller Professor of Marine Science College of Marine Science
Honorable Mention Sara Green Associate Professor of Sociology College of Arts and Sciences
Honorable Mention Michael Lynch Professor of Criminology College of Behavioral and Community Sciences

2015

Award Name Discipline College
Recipient Sylvia Thomas Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering College of Engineering
Honorable Mention Sarina Ergas Professor of Civil and Electrical Engineering College of Engineering
Honorable Mention Kevin A. Yelvington Professor of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences

2014

Award Name Discipline College
Recipient Paul Spector Distinguished Professor of Psychology College of Arts and Sciences
Honorable Mention Nancy Romero-Daza Professor of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences
Honorable Mention Camilla Vasquez Associate Professor of World Languages College of Arts and Sciences

2013

Award Name Discipline College
Recipient Tammy Allen Professor of Psychology College of Arts and Sciences
Honorable Mention Sanjukta Bhanja Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering College of Engineering
Honorable Mention Mya Breitbart Associate Professor of Marine Science College of Marine Science