Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant

Anne Kohler awarded NSF Cultural Anthropology Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant

Anne Kohler, PhD Candidate in the UConn department of anthropology, has been awarded a highly competitive National Science Foundation Dissertation Research Grant. Kohler’s doctoral research study, which is anchored in the Down Syndrome Program of a major hospital in the Northeastern U.S., explores the moral lives of people with Down Syndrome, with an emphasis on their experiences of health, clinical encounters, and care. In addition to her own NSF-funded ethnographic research, Kohler will also collaborate with researchers at Harvard Medical School and Simpson College to design and implement a national survey of Down Syndrome, health inequities, and healthcare access. Upon completion of her doctoral program, Anne plans to continue research that aims to address and remediate the health and social inequities faced by those with intellectual disabilities, with a focus on foregrounding their own ideas and experiences as a way to build inclusive health and social policy.


Recipient of the 2017-2018 Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship

Stephany Santos: Ph.D. Candidate, Biomedical Engineering

Stephany Santos: Ph.D. Candidate, Biomedical Engineering, Recipient of the 2017-2018 Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship

Stephany Santos, currently a Ph.D. candidate in Biomedical Engineering, is a recent recipient of the 2017 Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Ms. Santos’ research focuses on experimental characterization of cartilage tissues while working in the Interdisciplinary Mechanics Lab under the supervision of Prof. David M. Pierce, and while serving as an advisor for UConn’s Engineering Ambassadors program.

Her work in cartilage biomechanics will provide insight on the initiation and propagation of microscale damage that may lead to pre-clinical osteoarthritis. The Ford Fellowship recognizes both her research in cartilage biomechanics and her work in engineering education, communication, and mentorship. Her work in engineering education includes quantifying the impact of interaction with female undergraduate research assistants on K-12 students during educational outreach activities designed to engage and educate them on multiscale biomechanics. She has also developed curricula on public speaking and technical communication for the Engineering Ambassadors to aid the holistic development of students as thoughtful, productive members of our diverse societal fabric.

After earning her Ph.D., Ms. Santos plans to continue combining biomedical engineering and education in ways often overlooked by researchers and academia. As an educator, she hopes to incorporate diversity in the classroom and inspire students to understand how they learn, to contextualize their engineering knowledge, and ultimately to thrive regardless of their background. She plans to develop biomedical engineering coursework that better connects individual learning styles and tendencies to support, enlighten, and empower undergraduate students.

Graduate School Applications and Rankings on the Rise

Applications to graduate programs at the University of Connecticut are on the upswing, while at the same time the programs are registering a rise in rankings.

Throughout the past decade, the number of applicants to UConn’s graduate programs has grown steadily – from 8,400 in 2006 to 12,200 in 2016 – and that trend is expected to continue.

Read more on UConn Today

2017 National HWW PreDoctoral Fellow

Winifred Maloney Awarded Summer 2017 Fellowship from Humanities Without Walls at Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities

Winifred Maloney Portrait

Humanities Without Walls aims to create new avenues for collaborative research, teaching, and the production of scholarship in the humanities, forging and sustaining areas of inquiry that cannot be created or maintained without cross-institutional cooperation.

-Humanities Without Walls


Why did you apply?
I applied to the summer workshop because of its “alt-ac” focus. Coming into graduate school, I wasn’t sure about where I wanted to take my career, but I knew I wasn’t interested in entering the market for a tenure track job. Even if the market was robust, a position within the academy was just not going to be for me. When the history department won a career diversity grant from the American Historical Association, I was glad to see my department helping graduate students consider non-academic careers. Coming from this program that is now growing in its awareness of the need for career diversity in the humanities, I feel like UConn students can be frontrunners in shaping what “alt-ac” will look like for the next decades.

What do you hope will come from your experience?
The workshop will be held over the summer for three weeks in Chicago. I’m really looking forward to learning more about what careers are out there and to make meaningful connections with other fellows and speakers.

How did you hear about the fellowship?
My undergraduate advisor, Julie Mujic, sent me the call for applications post. She was instrumental in my decision to pursue history professionally by applying to Ph.D programs while in college. I have a lot to thank her for.

What can you tell us about Humanities Without Walls’ initiatives?
Humanities Without Walls is a consortium that connects the humanities centers of 15 research universities throughout the Midwest. Summer 2017 will be the third time they’ve run their summer alt-ac workshop, but the first time they’ve opened the search to a national pool. The first two workshops took fellows from the 15 universities that comprise the consortium. The consortium has been funded by a grant awarded to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

How did you first get involved with HWW?
I applied to the summer 2017 workshop in September 2016. I had to clear an internal selection process within UConn, as only one student per university can be nominated to the workshop. Dean Holsinger nominated me, and my application then went to one of the 15 consortium center directors who passed my application into a pool of 60 nominees. From there, the Summer Workshop Steering Committee selected me as one of 30 fellows.

What is the best experience or lesson that you have taken away from HWW?
Something I’ve taken away from the application process was how eager my mentors were to help me with the application. My advisor, Christopher Clark, was excited that I decided to work on the application. I got really helpful feedback from Professors Sylvia Schafer and Mark Healey in my department, as they were successful in securing the Career Diversity grant. Dean Holsinger was great to work with and optimistic about my chances of being awarded this fellowship, so his positivity rubbed off on me as I waited for the results.

What future plans do you have that involve your work with HWW?
The workshop begins in July. Once it concludes, I hope to maintain relationships with the consortium, the fellows, and speakers.

What is some advice you would give to future candidates?
When I was writing my statement for my application, a common critique from the colleagues I asked for help proofreading was that I wasn’t confident enough in my writing. To change that, I began to focus primarily on my desire to be a leader as graduate students in the humanities seek opportunities outside the academy. Changing my tone from passive to active rounded out my application.


To learn more about Humanities Without Walls and other opportunities please Click Here

Vena Haynes awarded EPA STAR Fellowship

Vena Haynes was recently awarded the EPA STAR Fellowship for her environmental toxicology research with Dr. J. Evan Ward. Vena is a PhD student in the UConn Marine Sciences program, where her research is focused on the effects of environmental pollutants on marine food webs. Manufactured nanomaterials are entering aquatic environments from product usage, industrial waste, and wastewater treatment plant effluents. Specifically, titanium dioxide nanoparticles found in consumer products, such as sunscreen and personal care products, can be toxic to organisms and its toxicity can increase with exposure to light. Very little research has been done on the effects of these nanoparticles in the marine environment with exposure to natural light. The objective of this project is to examine the effects of titanium dioxide nanoparticles on ecologically important food web grazers that inhabit coastal waters, using environmentally relevant experimental conditions. This work will aid in the development of safer nanomaterials and help predict impacts on grazer populations and organisms that rely on grazers for food (primarily fish).

UConn Environmental Engineering student wins EPA STAR


Rebecca “Becca” Rubinstein was recently awarded the EPA STAR Fellowship for her research on wastewater treatment with Dr. Ranjan Srivastava. Becca is a PhD student in the UConn Environmental Engineering Program, where her research is focused on understanding and modeling biological wastewater treatment. Nutrients commonly found in wastewater streams, particularly nitrogen species, can seriously damage aquatic ecosystems near the outfall, and as a result are carefully regulated. The microbial community that is largely responsible for nutrient removal from wastewater streams is very complex, changing in response to both nutrient loading rates and ambient environmental conditions. The objective of this project is to characterize the chemical and microbial system in the activated sludge basin of the UConn Water Pollution Control Facility through daily sampling and analysis at various locations in the treatment basin. A machine learning approach will be applied to model the system. The model will then be used to dynamically optimize treatment conditions. In developing this model, Becca hopes to provide a useful tool for evaluating the impact of different treatment techniques or system perturbations on treatment efficiency.

Current NSF Fellow awarded NSF GROW

Emily Seelen was recently funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide program to conduct research with Dr. Erik Björn at Umeå University in Sweden. This opportunity is only available to active awardees of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Emily is currently a PhD student in the UCONN Marine Sciences Department where her research is focused on mercury cycling in estuarine ecosystems. Even though mercury is a naturally occurring element, human activity has increased its abundance and altered its behavior in coastal waters. These changes potentially impact the incorporation of methylmercury, a more toxic form of mercury, into our aquatic resources including seafood. The degree of mercury accumulation in aquatic food webs has been shown to depend on the chemical form of methylmercury in the water column, and is related to the type of organic matter the methylmercury is bound to. In Sweden, Emily will use a molecular approach to describe the relationship between methylmercury and various types of natural organic matter in order to mechanistically understand how their interaction influences biotic uptake. The project is expected to last up to 9 months and will include advanced synchrotron and mass spectrometry work. Through this research, Emily hopes to improve mercury speciation models to more accurately predict mercury cycling and human exposure to methylmercury under climate change scenarios.

Jorell Meléndez-Badillo: Ph.D. Candidate, Recipient of the 2016-2017 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship

Currently a Ph.D. candidate in Latin American History, Jorell Meléndez-Badillo is a recent recipient of the 2016-2017 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. Jorell has previously published books, edited volumes, journal articles, book chapters, and newspaper articles on the topics of labor, anarchism, and radical politics in Puerto Rico. During his tenure he will work under the supervision of Prof. Blanca G. Silvestrini to complete his dissertation, currently titled, “The Workshop is Our Homeland: Puerto Rican Workers and their Production of Knowledge and Identities, 1897-1932.”

His work will provide an intellectual and cultural history of Puerto Rican workers, which adds new perspectives to our scholarly understanding of early twentieth-century Puerto Rican society by untangling the complexities of knowledge production and identity construction among its working classes. The project also widens the scope of how we look at and think about working-class transnationalism in the Caribbean and Latin America. Scholars have concentrated on migration patterns, physical movement, and labor institutions. By focusing on the movement of ideas rather than individuals or institutions, his work shifts the emphasis towards how local processes and identities were transnationally informed even when people lacked mobility.

After earning his Ph.D. Jorell aspires to become a Latino scholar and professor, and hopes to translate all of his research discoveries to students in the classroom. From large introductory classes about Latin America or the Caribbean, to upper-level courses about social movements, ideologies, or subaltern classes, he envisions his scholarship to be used in a wide-variety of interdisciplinary settings to think about gender, race, exclusions, and popular classes through the lenses of social, cultural, and intellectual history.

David Etim: Ph.D. Candidate, Recipient of 2016 NNSA Graduate Fellowship

David Etim, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Computer Science and Engineering. 

Currently a Ph.D. candidate studying in computer science and engineering, David Etim is a recent recipient of the 2016 National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Graduate Fellowship.  David has a strong interest in data analytics as well as development of applications that utilize the extraction of information from various documents. During his tenure at NNSA, David will work in the NNSA Office of Advanced Simulation and Computing, where he is to contribute to overseeing procurement of the most advanced high performance supercomputers for the NNSA National Laboratories across the country as well as identifying characteristics of next-generation platforms to procure necessary resources. David will also participate in improving high resolution 3-D Multiphysics simulations in support of the NNSA mission.

After David earns his Ph.D., his goal is to continue his career into Federal employment and make use of his skills and computer science background to facilitate cutting-edge projects that will serve the objectives of respective government agencies.

For more information about the NNSA fellowship, please visit