Kansas State University


Graduate School

Alumni pave the way for doctoral alumni to have successful careers

K-State alumni like Dr. Alvin Sarachek and his wife RosaLee are helping pave the way for K-State doctoral alumni to have successful careers.

Through an endowment established in 2002, the Saracheks have provided 15 K-State doctoral candidate whose dissertation research relied significantly on one or more contemporary molecular biological techniques.  The award recognizes exceptional achievement in scholastic and research including communicating their results in peer reviewed publications and presentations at national and international conferences. Currently recipients are awarded a $17,000 fellowship. The fellowship helps support the graduate’s successful transition into the next stage of their career.

In addition to the Sarachek Fellowship program, funding is provided to support three $1,000 travel awards annually to doctoral students conducting research using contemporary molecular biological techniques to assist them in presenting their research at national or international conferences or to attend specialized workshops to enhance their research skills.

“Kansas State University has traditionally offered a broad array of quality programs in the life sciences, many of which have outstanding reputations, nationally,” said Dr. Alvin Sarachek. “Having taken my Ph.D. in Genetics from KSU over half a century ago, my wife RosaLee and I are delighted to be able to contribute to that tradition of excellence by providing a special fellowship for recognition and support of advanced doctoral candidates from any field of study who have demonstrated exceptional research accomplishments involving molecular approaches to biological problems.”

Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek established the fellowship and travel awards to recognize resident graduate students enrolled in a doctoral program at Kansas State University who have demonstrated exceptional research and scholastic accomplishments.

Dr. Alvin Sarachek received his doctorate in Genetics at K-State in 1957.  After postdoctoral study in microbial biochemistry at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers, he joined with Professor Val Woodward of K-State in founding the Department of Biology at Wichita State University in 1958.  While at Wichita State he served as Department Chairman for 14 years and retired as Distinguished Professor of Natural Sciences in 1992. He holds Wichita State University’s  Regents Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Emory Lindquist Excellence in Honors Teaching Award, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and has been recipient of grants from eight federal agencies and private foundations for support of research and academic program development activities. Learn more about the Saracheks.

You have the opportunity to help transform graduate education and research at Kansas State University.  If you are interested in supporting K-State graduate students and to learn more about the opportunities for philanthropic investment, please visit the Graduate School.

Read below to learn more about the experiences the Fellowship provided some of the Sarachek Fellowship award recipients

2017 Recipient

Dr. Kirsten Grond

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut

Kristin Feedback on the Benefits of Sarachek Fellowship

Receiving the Sarachek award has tremendously impacted my transition from my PhD program into my professional career as a post-doc. On a personal level, it greatly facilitated the move from Kansas to Connecticut through enabling me to secure housing prior to moving, and by making it possible for me to ship my belongings to my new location. In addition, I was able to adopt a special needs shelter dog, which has greatly contributed to my mental health while adjusting to a new location and work place. I have no family in the US, and did not know anyone in Connecticut prior to moving, and my dog has been a source of comfort and motivation.

On a professional level, receiving the Sarachek award allowed me to start several research projects as soon as I arrived in Connecticut. The first project consisted of investigating how genetic relatedness affects microbiomes in Monk Parakeets. I am currently in the middle of parakeet dissections, and will be sending our samples of for RNA sequencing by the end of this year. Sequencing for this project will be funded by my Sarachek award, which will eliminate the delays that would be associated with applying for separate funding.  For a second project, I collected fecal and feather samples of Seaside and Saltmarsh Sparrows, to determine species and environmental effects on two distinct microbiomes. The Parakeet work will leave room for several additional samples in the sequencing reaction, which I can fill with fecal and feather samples from my second project.

In addition to directly impacting my research activities, receiving the Sarachek award enabled me to present at the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Group conference in Paracas, Peru, in November 2017. My presentation was well received and has lead to a collaboration with several South American Partners to apply for funding for a hemisphere-wide study of shorebird pathogen-immune system interactions.

Overall, the Sarachek award has jumpstarted my post-doctoral career by allowing me to immediately start generating data and therefore significantly moving up my publication time line.

2016 Recipient

Dr. Courtney Passow

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota

Message to Drs. Alvin and RosaLee Sarchek

Dear Dr. Alvin Sarachek and Mrs RosaLee Sarachek,

Thank you for your support of the Sarachek Predoctoral Honors Fellowship. I am both honored and fortunate to have received the award in 2016. While some funds were used to aid my move to Minneapolis, Minnesota, a majority was used to purchase equipment for my research (a stronger computer for computational work) as well as begin gathering data for my Fellowship at the University of Minnesota. In January 2017, the funding assisted my traveling to a collaborator’s laboratory (Dr. Alex Keene) at Florida Atlantic University, and further was used to collect data for my Grand Challenges Fellowship which focuses on understanding how phenotypes have evolved in nutrient and light-poor environments by linking co-expression networks and population genomics tools using the model Astyanax mexicanus (Blind Mexican Cavefish). I was able to collect over 170 samples and extract RNA to construct cDNA libraries. The data has recently come back from sequencing and I am excited to continue my research and further develop my academic career. After analyzing the data, we plan to use the preliminary data in grant submissions for NIH and NSF. Not only have the funds aided my research endeavors, but they have also helped me attend multiple conferences and gain further knowledge in my planned field, while also making lasting connections. In my first year as a Post Doctoral researcher, I was able to attend the Ecological Genomics Symposium in Kansas City, Missouri, the 5th Annual Cavefish Meeting in Satiago de Queretaro, Mexico as well as Evolution in Portland, Oregon. At each conference, I was selected to present past and current research and was able to establish collaborations with multiple laboratories that have turned into collaborative research projects, such as Dr. Masato Yoshizawa at University of Hawaii Manoa, Dr. Todd Castoe at University of Texas in Arlington and Dr. Nicolas Rohner at Stowers Medical Institute in Kansas City. I am indebted to you both, as without these funds I would not have been able to obtain many of the opportunities I have received throughout my academic career. To conclude, I again would like to thank you for your generous donations and support of student research, as I have benefited greatly.

2014 Recipient

Dr. Kai Yuan

Current Position: Technical Services Manager, Quality Liquid Feeds, Inc., Novi, Michigan

Message to Drs. Al and RosaLee Sarachek

 Dear Dr. Al Sarachek and Mrs. Rosalee Sarachek,

It is my great pleasure to update you on my professional progress since I received your fellowship since 2014. I cannot thank you more for your generous support to me and other young scientists and I am forever indebted to your family.

Upon the completion of my PhD in Animal Science (Dairy Nutrition focus) in 2014 and after a postdoctoral research experience at the University of Michigan, I started my position with Quality Liquid Feeds Inc. and serve as the Technical Services Manager. My responsibilities include the research and application of novel nutritional solutions to dairy cows. My goal is to improve dairy cow health and milk quality using integrated scientific knowledge of biology, nutrition, and metabolism. My current career directly uses and applies the skills and knowledge I acquired during my doctoral research at Kansas State University, and should benefit animals, dairy producers and our entire animal industry as a whole.

The generous financial support and the great honor you have bestowed upon me have enabled me to pursue my dream career with full confidence. It also enabled other people to have confidence on my ability to put my knowledge of biology and animal science into practice. I hope to thank you in person and invite you for a dinner one day when I come back to Manhattan KS.

2013 Recipient

Dr. Ismael Badillo-Vargas

Current Position, Assistant Professor, AgriLife Research, Department of Entomology, Texas A & M University

Update and Benefit of Fellowship

Things are going well personally and professionally. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Insect Vector Biology in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Weslaco, TX and within the Texas A&M University System. Soon I will complete two full years in this position where I am working with insect vectors of plant and human pathogens. Within the area of insect vectors of plant pathogens, my research group is working with psyllids, leafhoppers, whiteflies, and thrips that transmit either plant viruses or bacteria, and our research spans from applied to basic science. Within the area of insect vectors of human pathogens, my research group is involved in collaborations studying the landscape ecology of mosquito vectors of arboviruses as this region is a hot spot for the introduction and possible autochthonous transmission of arboviruses such as Zika, Chikungunya and West Nile virus in the state of Texas. Currently we have funding from Texas Department of Agriculture, USDA-ARS, CDC, NIH, and one private agency. I feel very fortunate to have been able to develop an active research program at just two years since starting in this position.

The Sarachek Fellowship allowed me to participate in one national (France 2013) and one international (Portland, OR 2014) scientific meetings that provided me with unique opportunities to 1) present my doctoral research and 2) network and meet researchers with whom I am now collaborating in my current position. It also helped me relocate to Florida where I conducted postdoctoral training for one year within the University of Florida and the USDA-ARS Horticultural Research Laboratory before getting my permanent position in Texas. These opportunities combined, which were only possible through the economic support I received from the Sarachek Fellowship, where indeed instrumental in being prepared for getting started with my professional career at Texas A&M AgriLife Research. I hope that Al and RosaLee Sarachek continue to provide support to other doctoral students in Kansas State University through this Fellowship program.

2012 Recipient

Dr. Ericia Cain

Current Position, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Northeast Lakeview College, University City, TX

Update and Benefit of Fellowship

I was honored to receive the Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek Predoctoral Honors Fellowship in 2012. This award enabled me to relocate myself and my family to San Francisco to pursue my postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco. The skills and experiences I gained at UCSF helped me to earn my current position of Assistant Professor of Biology at Northeast Lakeview College in 2015. In this position I am able to help train future scientists by collaborating with partners at Universities to implement real world research elements into my Genetics course. I also am a research mentor for undergraduate researchers at my college.

2010 Recipient

Dr. Alison Luce-Fedrow

Current Position, Assistant Professor of Biology, Shippensburg University

Update and Benefits of Fellowship

Since receiving the Sarachek award, I have completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Allen L. Richards at the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) (Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine), Silver Spring, MD (2010-2015).  I am currently an assistant professor (tenure track) in the Department of Biology at Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, PA, where I teach immunology, microbiology, and principles of cell structure and function and serves as research mentor to both graduate and undergraduate students.  I was awarded the Faculty of the Year award in 2016-2017 for my outstanding teaching and research accomplishments.   I maintain several research collaborations with Dr. Richards at NMRC. My research interests are focused on the characterization, immunology, and epidemiology of tick-and-fee-borne rickettsial agents. Based on my research, I serve as a subject matter expert (Ehrlichia chaffeensis) for the Armed Forces Health Survelliance Center, Defense Health Agency, Department of Defense.

The funds associated with the Sarachek award were invaluable to my progression from graduate student life in Manhattan, KS to postdoctoral life in Washington, D.C.; they assisted in easing the transition and financial burden associated with a cross country move from the Midwest to the East coast of the United States.  In turn, I was able to immediately begin my postdoctoral experience in Washington, DC and continue my work in the field of Rickettsiology, which I credit to my successes as a fellow at NMRC and ultimately to my career progression to professor.

2009 Recipient

Dr. Vinai Chittezham Thomas

Current Position, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology, Center for Staphylococcal Research, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Update and Benefit of Sarachek Fellowship

I have very fond memories of my time at K-State. The enriching atmosphere, professionalism, and collegiality of the wonderful people I met at K-State are truly unmatched. I have benefitted immensely  and continue to do so even now at a professional level from several distinguished K-State alumni. In fact, it is somewhat strange, but perhaps not surprising that my workplace consists of several faculty including me who are K-State alumni.

I have always wanted a career in academics. That wish came true for me about three years ago when I joined as faculty in the Department of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Of course, this career trajectory of mine has not been easy or without its challenges. However, with each new challenge came opportunities. The Sarachek award was one such opportunity that had an enormous impact on my life and allowed me to cement a career in academics.

How did the Sarachek award specifically help? This award helped me in three fundamental ways. First and foremost, the Sarachek award has been a tremendous source of pride for me and my family. It has helped me realize that hard work and scholarship are rewarding in more than one ways. To be recognized by this award means a lot to me.   Second, the award instilled in me the confidence to work effectively among eminent scientists. Immediately after my Ph.D., I joined a prestigious lab at the University of Washington, Seattle as a postdoctoral fellow. Now, I have to say these big institutes and their labs are meant to test us, and it is easy to lose confidence and forget one’s achievements when surrounded by elite scientists. However, the Sarachek award is one of those tangible and prestigious achievements that are hard to forget and often made me feel like “David in the midst of Philistines’. No pun intended.

Finally, the significant and generous no-strings-attached endowment that came with the Sarachek award gave me financial freedom. The award allowed me to concentrate on solving the more important scientific questions associated with my research rather than fret over the monetary issues that would otherwise have surely bogged me down in a big and expensive city like Seattle.  I can confidently say that receiving the Sarachek award, has allowed me to redeem time and achieve my career goals quicker. I am sure all those who have received this award will echo the same sentiments. I sincerely thank both Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek for their generous investment in the lives and careers of many including myself.


Dr. Lalitha Peddireddi

Current Position, Clinical Assistant Professor, Director, Molecular Diagnostic Service Laboratory, Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University

Update and Benefit of Sarachek Fellowship

The Sarachek fellowship was a great help and provided much needed financial support, when I was a graduate student, to explore the opportunities in the field of Microbiology. I attended workshops and visit other universities to meet experts and pursue training opportunities. All these immensely helped me to broaden my exposure to various academic opportunities and explore areas of my interests.  My professional goal has always been staying at the intersection of my training as a veterinarian and molecular biologist and taking science findings from bench to bedside.

Currently I am a Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of Veterinary Molecular Diagnostic Services at Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. In this position as a diagnostician, I strive to provide quality services to our clients and stakeholders by integrating my training as a molecular biologist and veterinary Scientist. I sincerely thank Al and RosaLee Sarachek for their generous support to encourage aspiring students. It is a great help and provide much needed financial support for students/young scientists to pursue their academic ambitions and dreams.