2013 NSF GRFP Winners

Jennifer Arceo

Jennifer Arceo

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. & B.A. in Chemistry & Environmental Science at California Lutheran University (2011)

Department – Adviser: Chemistry and Biochemistry – Dr. Norman J. Dovichi

Project: “Study of Glycosphingolipid Metabolism in Single Cells via Capillary Electrophoresis-Laser Induced Fluorescence.”

Brief Description: My research laboratory focuses on the development of sensitive instrumentation for the elucidation of complex bio-chemical problems. My project specifically utilizes capillary electrophoresis-laser induced fluorescence (CE-LIF), to study the metabolism of glycosphingolipids (GSLs) in single cells. Glycosphingolipids are located in the outer membrane of cells and involved in vital cellular processes such as: signal transduction, cell adhesion, and differentiation. GSLs are highly expressed in the central nervous system (CNS). Consequently, the aberrant metabolism of these molecules is correlated to CNS affecting diseases such as lysosomal storage disorders which include Niemann Pick-C, Tay-Sachs and Gaucher disease. Our technique allows us to probe the metabolic pathways of GSLs in single cells and gain further insight on the enzymatic processes which drive GSLs expression and trafficking in both normal and diseased cell populations.

Career Goals: I wish to pursue a career in a non-profit laboratory/research hospital.

Other Notes: My other activities include photography, hiking, and Crossfit.

Caroline Byrd

Caroline Byrd

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Psychology, Minor in Mathematical Decision Sciences – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2011)

Department – Advisor: Psychology Department (Developmental) – Dr. Nicole McNeil

Project: “Are the Beneficial Effects of Gesture on Learning Due to Eye Movements?”

Brief description: Research has shown that asking children to mimic specific gestures prior to instruction on math equivalence problems helps them generate and maintain correct problem-solving strategies. These findings support the idea that gesturing facilitates learning; however, the gestures children have mimicked in previous studies have all been relational gestures that move children’s attention back and forth across the equal sign. In my project, I will test the hypothesis that the benefits of these gestures are not due to gesture per se, but rather, are due to the eye movements that accompany the gestures. Research conducted with adults indicates that looking back and forth across the equal sign is correlated with correct strategies to solve math equivalence problems. Research also shows that participants’ eye movements predict correct problem solving and that directing eye movements in a pattern that embodies a correct solution leads to successful problem solving. If gesture facilitates learning by eliciting certain eye movements, then this would advance theory and provide educators with a guiding principle for designing learning materials.

Career Goals: My career goal is to be immersed in research at either a major research institution or an educational research organization. Ultimately, my long-term goal is to conduct research that contributes to improvements in instructional methods that advance children’s mathematical understanding.

Other Notes: I am a percussionist in the University Band here at Notre Dame!

Eric DeLeon

Eric DeLeon

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Chemistry – University of Notre Dame (2012)

Department – Adviser: Biological Sciences – Dr. Kenneth Olson

Project: “Hydrogen Sulfide Mediated Oxygen Sensing.”

Brief Description: My research focuses on the ability to monitor oxygen (O2) availability, whose delivery is crucial to an animal’s survival. Vertebrates have a number of O2 “sensing” cells that monitor environmental oxygen and ensure adequate delivery to the tissues. While there is little doubt that these cells perform important homeostatic functions, there is little consensus on how a change in O2 concentration, or partial pressure (PO2), is transduced into a physiological response, i.e., the “oxygen-sensor.” My work focuses on the novel hypothesis that hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is the unknown key couple in the oxygen sensing process and he studies physiological responses in cells, which are measured with polarographic electrodes, and more recently intracellularly via nanoparticles.

Career Goals: My career goals are to receive my Ph.D and then possibly my M.D. as well, but with my main focus on medical research. My main area of study will be on the physiological significance and regulation of biochemical pathways, particularly those involving gasotransmitters.

Patrick Miller

Patrick Miller

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Cognitive Psychology – University of Kansas (2012)

Department – Adviser: Psychology (Quantitative) – Dr. Gitta Lubke

Project: “Searching through multiple haystacks: A statistical learning method for finding important predictors in high dimensional data with multivariate outcomes.”

Brief Description: In my lab, we are generally interested in understanding the impact of genetics on psychological disorders. One approach that we use is to find sites of genetic variation (nucleotide polymorphisms) that are associated with these disorders. The effect of each polymorphism is very small, so I propose to develop and evaluate a new statistical method that might give us more power to detect these effects. One additional benefit of the research is that the method could be used more generally for variable selection with multivariate outcomes, where the number of potential predictors far exceeds the sample size.

Career Goals: My goal is to develop and use novel statistical methods to help address substantive questions in psychology or other social sciences.

Enma Pardilla-Delgado

Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Psychology – University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras (2011)

Department – Advisor: Psychology (Cognition, Brain & Behavior) – Dr. Jessica Payne

Project: “How sleep influence the memory for gist over the long term?”

Brief Description: My project investigates how sleeping (and sleep architecture) right after learning affects two different types of memory over the course of 24 and 48 hours. More importantly, I want to know how sleep and the physiological correlates of sleep affect our memory for the gist (or main theme) of events. It has been shown that gist memories persist over time while memories for specific details decay. My research investigates whether this “gist persistence” is dependent or related to sleep right after learning.

Career Goals: I plan to eventually become a full-time professor mainly focused on research and ideally I would study sleep and memory in Puerto Rico, where no one is currently doing research in this field. I am also very interested in the scientific study of dreaming and its relationship to memory.

Rachel Schluttenhofer

Rachel Schluttenhofer

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Biochemistry, Purdue University (2011)

Department – Adviser: Biological Sciences – Dr. Patricia Champion

Brief Description: Mycobacteria, such as M. tuberculosis—the causative agent of tuberculosis, require the ESX-1 secretion system for virulence. My project focuses on studying the molecular mechanisms and protein-protein interactions of one of the secreted proteins. Studying this protein, a known virulence factor, will aid our basic understanding of the role of ESX-1 in mycobacterial pathogenesis and how particular proteins are targeted for export.

Career Goal: Research and teaching in microbiology




Shayna Sura

Shayna Sura

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Environmental Science – University of Notre Dame (2011)

Department – Adviser: Biological Sciences – Gary Belovsky

Project: “Impacts of harvesting on brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana) in Great Salt Lake, UT.”

Brief Description: My current research is on brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana) in Great Salt Lake, UT. Brine shrimp cysts (diapausing egg stage) are commercially harvested and used as food in fish and shrimp hatcheries worldwide. Harvests from Great Salt Lake represent up to 90% of the global cyst market. Current harvesting techniques collect cysts floating on the lake’s surface, which poses a potential selective pressure against floating cysts and could affect population dynamics. For my research, I am examining the heritability of cyst buoyancy and the influence of environmental variation. In addition, using historic harvested cyst samples, I am looking at whether various cyst characteristics and brine shrimp life history traits have changed over time.

Career Goals: My career goal is to become a professor at a major research university, where I can continue conducting research and also share my passion with the next generation of scientists. I enjoy teaching undergraduates and mentoring them on individual research projects. It’s refreshing to walk them through the scientific process and see them develop as scientists and discover their own research interests.

Other Notes: My hobbies include scrapbooking, ballroom dancing and scuba diving. I want to visit New Zealand and go on a Lord of the Rings tour. I also recently received the Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award offered by the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning and the Graduate School.

Tori Tomiczek

Tori Tomiczek

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Civil Engineering – University of Florida (2011)

Department – Adviser: Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences – Dr. Andrew Kennedy

Project: “Collapse Limit State Fragility Model for Coastal Residences Subject to Hurricane Events.”

Brief Description: I will create fragility functions for coastal residences subjected to the combined wind, storm surge, and wave forces generated by hurricanes that allow one to predict the damage to a home based on the structural attributes of the house as well as the environmental variables caused by the storm. I will use field studies from the Bolivar Peninsula, Texas after Hurricane Ike, Ortley Beach, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, as well as other regions to determine the most important structural characteristics influencing the survival of a home based on a design storm’s wave heights, flood elevation, and wind velocities. With a better ability to predict the damage to a coastal residence as a result of a storm, coastal engineers will be able to design homes to withstand these forces, thus building “hurricane-proof” communities.

Career Goals: I hope to work as a coastal engineer to perform conservation work along some of America’s National Shorelines, while also teaching at a nearby university.

Other Notes: I love working at Notre Dame! I am a instructor with the Notre Dame Swing Dancing Club, and I also have enjoyed teaching religious education to second graders at Little Flower Parish. In my spare time I love hiking, running, gardening, and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Florida Gators, and the Fighting Irish!

Carmella Vizza

Carmella Vizza

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology – Tulane University (2008)

Department – Adviser: Biological Sciences – Dr. Gary Lamberti

Project: “Predicting Climate Change Impacts on Carbon Cycling in Alaskan Wetlands.”

Brief Description: I work in coastal wetlands in the Copper River Delta, Alaska, which provide essential habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened migratory bird populations. I am studying the effects of climate change on ecosystem processes, such as decomposition and biofilm nutrient limitation. The goal for my research this summer is to establish a link between these processes and methane production and emissions.

Career Goals: In the future, I would like to combine my love of teaching with my passion for investigating scientific questions as a professor at a research university. I want to engage students in developing their curiosity of the natural world, while continuing to advance knowledge in the fields of ecology and biogeochemistry.

Other Notes: I coached ultimate frisbee for 4 years in Seattle where I was named the 2010 Washington Youth Coach of the Year by USA Ultimate.