Kansas State University


Graduate School

Graduate Student Successes

This article highlights some current student successes:

  • 2017 Three Minute Thesis Competition
  • K-State Graduate Research, Arts, and Discovery (K-GRAD) Forum
  • Midwestern Association Graduate School Excellence in Teaching Award
  • Alvin and RosaLee Saracheck Predoctoral Honors Fellowship and Travel Awards in Molecular Biology
  • Spring 2017 Notable Scholarly Student Achievement Newsletter

The Return of K-State’s Three Minute Thesis Competition

Graduate students were up for the timely challenge as they attempted to beat the clock at the 2017 Three Minute Thesis Competition.

Thirty graduate students participated in the preliminary heats on Feb. 8, with eight graduate students advancing to the final round on Feb. 16.  The competitions goal is to challenge graduate students to refine complex science dissertations and theses into three-minute speeches that are understandable and entertaining for the audience and the panel of judges.

Tuyen Nguyen, doctoral student in chemistry from Vietnam, won first place and the People’s Choice award at Kansas State University’s Three Minute Thesis competition finals for her presentation “Tiny Superhero Fights Against Cancer.”

For the finals, the graduate students had to explain their research in three minutes or less. Along with the time limit, finalists had to make their presentations from memory — no notes allowed — and could use just one slide in front of an audience of Manhattan community members and Kansas State University faculty and students. Judges for the event were Bill Snyder, the university’s head football coach; Usha Reddi, mayor of Manhattan; and Tom Giller, president of Commerce Bank in Manhattan.

As the first-place winner, Nguyen received a $500 scholarship. She also earned a $125 scholarship as the People’s Choice winner, which was selected by the audience. Nguyen’s research is supported by the Johnson Cancer Research Center and the Nanotechnology Innovation Center of Kansas State. Her major professor is Santosh Aryal, assistant professor of chemistry. Find out more about her research at k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/2017-02/superheroes22117.html.

Anil Pant, doctoral student in biology, Nepal, won second place and $250 for his research presentation on “Vaccina Virus Develops New Taste.” Pant’s research is supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Johnson Cancer Research Center. His major professor is Zhilong Yang, assistant professor of biology.

“The Three Minute Thesis Competition offered me a great opportunity to train myself on how to talk about my research to the general audience,” Nguyen said. “I put all my emotions, enthusiasm and passions about fighting cancer and my research into my presentation. I hoped my presentation would help the audience understand the way I feel, and to iterate that scientists in different fields are trying hard every day to fight cancer.”

Aside from being able to effectively communicate the significance of their research in three minutes or less, the competition was a way show the importance of being able to communicate well with people outside of the participants’ disciplines.

“The warm and enthusiastic environment of the competition has given me the experience to present my research in a convincing manner to general audience,” Pant said. “The final competition was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Studies show that more employers are expecting their employees to be able to communicate highly complex information in a way that can be understood by everyone. The Three Minute Thesis competition gives the graduate students to share their scholarly endeavors with the public.

As the first-place winner, Nguyen represented Kansas State University in the 2017 Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools’ Three Minute Thesis Competition on April 5-7, in Indianapolis.

Along with Nguyen and Pant, the competition also featured the following finalists:

Heather Love, doctoral student in human ecology, Gilbert, Arizona; Brintha Parasumanna Girinathan, doctoral student in genetics, India; Zin Mar Myint, master’s student in mass communications, Myanmar; Babita Adhikari Dhungel, doctoral student in biology, and Anju Giri, doctoral student in agronomy, both from Nepal; and Marcus Olatoye, doctoral student in agronomy, Nigeria.

The Three Minute Thesis is an academic competition first developed by the University of Queensland of Australia. Competitions are now conducted at more than 170 universities in 17 countries.

Ten graduate students earn scholarships at campus wide research forum

On March 30th, 70 graduate students competed for scholarship awards at the annual graduate student research forum, K-State Graduate Research, Arts and Discovery, or GRAD Forum at the K-State Student Union.

The GRAD Forum provided graduate students from all disciplines an opportunity to share their work with the K-State community and to gain experience presenting their work in a professional setting. The forum included oral presentations and poster presentations on topics in engineering, social sciences, humanities, education, agricultural sciences, math, physical sciences, biological sciences and interdisciplinary research.

University faculty judges selected the top presenters in each session. An awards ceremony included a special presentation from Sarah Hancock, communications coordinator for the Office of Vice President for Research. Each first place winner received $500 scholarships and their names were engraved on a perpetual plaque specific to each group.  The plaque will be displayed in their department until the 2018 GRAD Forum event.

The forum is sponsored by the Graduate School, the Graduate Student Council, the Offices of the President and Provost, the Research Office and Sigma Xi.

2017 K-State GRAD Forum 1st place winners:

  • Interdisciplinary Research Oral: Gabriel Granco, doctoral student in geography, Brazil. Granco’s major professor is Marcellus Caldas.
  • Biological Sciences Oral 1: Samantha Sharpe, doctoral student in biology, San Rafael, California. Sharpe’s major professor is Loretta Johnson.
  • Biological Sciences Oral 2:Nick Barts, doctoral student in biology, Belleville, Illinois. Barts’ major professor is Michael Tobler.
  • Biological Sciences Poster: Jillian Joyce, doctoral student in human nutrition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Joyce’s major professor is Sara Rosenkranz.
  • Engineering/Math/Physical Sciences Poster: Sarocha Pradyawong, doctoral student in biological and agricultural engineering, Thailand. Pradyawong’s major professor is Donghai Wang.
  • Engineering/Math/Physical Sciences Oral: Janaka Gamekkanda Gamaethige, doctoral student in chemistry, Sri Lanka. Gamaethige’s major professor is Christer Aakeröy.
  • Social Sciences/Humanities/Education Oral:Jakki Forester, master’s student in communication studies, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Forester’s major professor is Alicia Brunson.
  • Social Sciences/Humanities/Education Poster: Brooke Cull, doctoral student in human nutrition, Oakland, Nebraska. Cull’s major professor is Sara Rosenkranz.
  • Agricultural Sciences Oral: Rajesh Kumar, master’s student in grain sciences, India. Kumar’s major professor is Sajid Alavi.
  • Agricultural Sciences Poster: Ross Braun, doctoral student in horticulture, Leeds, North Dakota. Braun’s major professor is Dale Bremer.

Graduate student is university’s fifth to be regionally recognized for teaching excellence

A Kansas State University doctoral student in psychological sciences is a regional award winner for excelling in teaching and mentoring.
Amanda Martens, Shelby, Iowa, received the 2017 Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Excellence in Teaching Award for the doctoral level. Martens is the fifth Kansas State University graduate student to win the award.

The award recognizes both master’s and doctoral graduate students who excel in classroom teaching and promote awareness of graduate teaching contributions to the university’s scholarship and the teaching mission. Martens received a $750 honorarium and represented Kansas State University at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools, April 5-7 in Indianapolis.

“I am honored to be recognized as the recipient of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools’ Excellence in Teaching Award,” Martens said. “This award gives me validation for all of the long hours that have gone into doing the best I can do for my students.”

To date, Martens has been the instructor of record 15 times. Her experiences range from teaching introductory courses such as General Psychology and Introductory Psychology Lab at Emporia State University, to teaching both introductory and upper-level courses such as General Psychology, Psychology of Women, Social Psychology and Personality Psychology at Kansas State University.

“My focus has always been on empowerment and engagement with students,” Martens said. “My ultimate goal is to empower my students with tools and information that they can use throughout their lives. I engage my students through my use of humor, popular culture examples, and examples that are highly relevant to most college students’ lives. This also allows me to develop a rapport with the students. After rapport is developed, I can challenge my students’ thinking and discuss topics that are often perceived as difficult and controversial, such as gender, prejudice, feminism and religion.”

Her primary research interests focus on examining perceptions of women within the lenses of both traditional and contemporary gender roles. She uses her research program not only to discover novel empirical findings to further the extant knowledge of social psychology, but also as a vehicle by which she empowers her undergraduate collaborators. She mentors up to four undergraduates in her laboratory each semester, and to date she has co-authored 14 national conference presentations with her undergraduate collaborators.

During her four years at Kansas State University, Martens has served as the president of the Graduate Student Council and been active on university committees such as the graduate student representative on the university’s Budget Advisory and Space Migration committees.

She has presented her research at both local and national conferences. Martens is working on completing her proposal for her preliminaries for her dissertation project. Following graduation, Martens intends to pursue a faculty role in academia.

Martens earned her Bachelor of Science from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, and her Master of Science from Emporia State University in Emporia.

To view Martens’ teaching video, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv0S0q24iJo.

Since 2011, the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools has been recognizing graduate students’ teaching accomplishments with its Excellence in Teaching Award. The Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools is a regional affiliate of the Council of Graduate Schools. Member colleges and universities are accredited institutions of higher education in the central U.S. that offer graduate programs leading to masters, specialist, and doctorate degrees.

Three graduate students earn Sarachek fellowship, travel awards

Three Kansas State University doctoral candidates received Sarachek awards for their academic and research achievements.

Kirsten Grond, doctoral candidate in biology, Netherlands, was awarded the $17,000 Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek Predoctoral Honors Fellowship in Molecular Biology. Awarded the $1,000 Sarachek Scientific Travel Award were Nicole Green, doctoral candidate in biochemistry, Newton, Illinois, and Ananda Bandara, doctoral candidate in plant pathology, Sri Lanka.

Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek, Wichita, 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. An interdisciplinary faculty selection committee determines the fellowship and award recipients. The awards program is offered through the university’s Graduate School.

Grond received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. She received her doctorate in May. Grond’s research focuses on linking gut microbiota composition to development and life history traits in migratory shorebirds. Brett Sandercock, professor of biology, is Grond’s major professor.

Grond will use the fellowship to relocate to Connecticut to work as a postdoc in Sarah Hird’s lab at the University of Connecticut. In Hird’s lab, Grond will focus on unraveling the next step in bird microbiome research. She will investigate the interactions between birds and their gut microbiomes through studying microbial function under varying environmental conditions.

Green will use the travel award to attend the 2017 American Society for Cell Biology-European Molecular Biology Organization joint meeting in Philadelphia in December. Green’s research focuses on how contractile muscles — the muscles that make up the heart and body muscles — can resist mechanical stress as we grow and age. She will present results of her research at the conference and attend professional development workshops that will enhance her doctoral experience and prepare her for her future career in science.

Green received her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in Edwardsville, Illinois. She plans to graduate in December and obtain a postdoctoral position to continue her research.

Bandara will use the travel award to attend and present at the American Phytopathological Society annual meeting in San Antonio in August. Bandara will present his recent research findings on sorghum-Macrophominaphaseolina interaction and interact with scientists in the field. Upon completion of his graduate program in August, Bandara plans to return to Sri Lanka and become a faculty member at the University of Peradeniya.

Bandara received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture and molecular and applied microbiology from the University of Peradeniya.

Alvin Sarachek received his doctorate in genetics from K-State in 1957. He and his wife created the fellowship and travel awards because he values the university’s tradition of offering a broad array of quality programs in the life sciences, many with outstanding national reputations. The Saracheks wanted to contribute to the tradition of excellence by recognizing students who have demonstrated exceptional research accomplishments involving molecular approaches to biological problems.

More information on the Sarachek awards is available at kstate.edu/grad/financing/sarachek/.

Spring 2017 Notable Scholarly Achievement Newsletter

This newsletter recognizes some of the outstanding accomplishments of K-State’s graduate students. All recommendations were made by K-State faculty who have worked with the student and feel the student should be recognized. This list is by no means inclusive of all the graduate student accomplishments across the university but is a representative return from the faculty.

Read this edition of the Notable Scholarly Achievement Newsletter.