2011 Graduate School Shaheen Winners

Author: Mary Hendriksen

The winners of the 2011 Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Awards, the highest awards bestowed on Notre Dame graduate students, exemplify the academic excellence that is the hallmark of the Notre Dame Graduate School.

Named in honor of a Notre Dame alumnus and his wife, the award recognizes the top graduating doctoral degree recipients in the Graduate School’s four divisions: Engineering, Humanities, Science, and Social Sciences. Nominated by their departments, the Shaheen Award winners are chosen for their superior ability as exhibited by grades, research, and publication records, fellowships and other awards received during the course of study at Notre Dame, as well as teaching ability.

The 2011 Shaheen Award recipients are:

  • Sagnik Basuray, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
  • Matthew William Bates, Theology
  • Natalie Adriana Griffiths, Biological Sciences
  • Melissa Ward George, Psychology

2011 Graduate School Shaheen winner Sagnik Basuray

Sagnik Basuray, Ph.D. May 2011

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Award in Engineering

Dissertation: Dielectrophoresis and Its Application to Biomedical Diagnostics Platforms

Dissertation Director: Hsueh-Chia Chang, Professor and Bayer Corporation Chair in Engineering

Sagnik Basuray of the Department of Chemical Engineering invented a hand-held genetic biosensor for pathogens that may have profound effects in the developing world. The first Notre Dame IP to be licensed to a high-tech start-up at Innovation Park, his device will be a rapid and portable means of detecting and monitoring the spread of viruses and bacteria such as malaria, dengue, and yellow fever. Featured in Notre Dame’s recent national television commercial “Fighting for Innovative Healthcare,” Sagnik has three patents pending, is the author or co-author of nine publications, and presented at 11 conferences as a graduate student. While a student, Sagnik served as a graduate teaching assistant and, in his capacity as a mentor, included undergraduates on his research team—three of whom were accepted at top Ph.D. programs to pursue biosensing research. Sagnik is currently a research scientist at 454 Life Sciences, a Roche Company, where he is involved in the research and development of next-generation rapid gene sequencing technologies.

2011 Graduate School Shaheen winner Matthew William Bates

Matthew William Bates, Ph.D. May 2011

Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Award in the Humanities

Dissertation: Paul and the Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Kerygma: Reassessing Paul’s Scriptural Interpretation in Light of His Hermeneutical Statements and His Prosopological Exegesis

Dissertation Director: David E. Aune, Professor and Walter Chair in Theology

Matthew Bates has made diverse and distinctive contributions across the field of Christian origins, with a special emphasis on St. Paul’s method of interpreting the Hebrew scriptures. Methodologically, Matthew frequently uses reception-history to harness his texts, seeing later interpretations as a vital but often neglected literary and historical control. A former practicing electrical engineer, Matthew has distinguished himself in Notre Dame’s top-ranked theology program by the sole authorship of five refereed articles in preeminent journals, two articles as invited book chapters, and numerous book reviews and conference presentations. Moreover, his revised dissertation, which received several contractual offers, is currently forthcoming as a refereed book with Baylor University Press. Matthew has proven to be an outstanding teacher as well—both as a graduate student and as an appointed Teaching Scholar in the Department of Theology. Completing his doctoral studies in just five years, next year, Matthew will assume a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois.

2011 Graduate School Shaheen winner Natalie Adriana Griffiths

Natalie Adriana Griffiths, Ph.D. May 2011

Biological Sciences
Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Award in Science

Dissertation: Quantifying the Impact of Row-Crop Agriculture on Carbon Dynamics in Midwestern Streams

Dissertation Director: Jennifer L. Tank, Stephen J. and Robert T. Galla Chair in Biological Sciences

Natalie Griffiths’ research gives us new insights into the novel pathways of carbon cycling in agricultural streams of the Midwestern United States, and how the byproducts of genetically modified corn left on fields after harvest may impact stream ecosystems. Specifically, Natalie found that agricultural streams are important processors and transporters of carbon to downstream ecosystems, and that genetically modified corn and associated insecticidal proteins are not confined to crop boundaries but instead are commonly found in agricultural streams. Natalie secured three highly competitive fellowships to fund her dissertation research: one from the government of her native Canada, another from the National Science Foundation, and a third from a scientific research society. She is the first author on three articles published in highly regarded scientific journals, a co-author on five additional publications, and currently has three manuscripts under peer review for publication. In addition, Natalie has presented the results from her ongoing research at 7 national meetings, actively mentored two undergraduate students, and served as an exemplary teaching assistant in the Department of Biological Sciences—winning honors from Notre Dame’s Kaneb Center. Natalie is now completing a prestigious post-doctoral position at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where she is researching the effects of climate change on nutrient cycling in spruce peatlands, and the impacts of bioenergy feedstocks on stream and groundwater quality with Dr. Pat Mulholland, a leader in the field of stream ecosystem ecology. Natalie’s long-term career goal is to obtain a tenure-track position at a large research university, where she plans to continue to study how human activities impact aquatic ecosystems.

2011 Graduate School Shaheen winner Melissa Ward George

Melissa Ward George, Ph.D. May 2011

Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Award in Social Sciences

Dissertation: Parent-Child Attachment Security and Children’s Socio-Emotional Adjustment During the Early School Years

Dissertation Director: E. Mark Cummings, Notre Dame Chair in Psychology

The primary focus of the research and scholarship of Melissa George is the examination of the complex nature of family relations, marital conflict, and child adjustment. Specifically, Melissa’s program of research examines the contexts that are stressful and threatening to children’s security, including security about their parents’ marital relationship. Supported by external grants after her first year, Melissa has authored seven publications in high-impact journals in the field of psychology, including four as first author. One of her co-authored articles, now under review in a top journal, is considered so groundbreaking that it may become a classic in the field. Building on a foundation of 18 conference presentations, remarkably, Melissa has an additional ten papers in preparation. Melissa has also been recognized for her excellence in teaching undergraduates at Notre Dame with a Kaneb Center teaching award. Completing her doctoral program in just five years, she is now a post-doctoral research associate at the University of South Carolina, where she continues her work in child psychology—focusing on prevention and intervention programs for youth and families.