Community of Scholars

Photo by Brandon Parigo, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communication

Ceremony recognizes graduate research achievements

Research by graduate students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City leads to lifesaving cures, insights that address social issues, advancements in economic development and enhancements in public health and safety. The annual Community of Scholars event, sponsored by the School of Graduate Studies, recognizes superior efforts in graduate student research.

The event also includes a Three-Minute Thesis competition. The competition is designed to counteract the difficulty university researchers have traditionally had in relating the significance and value of their work to the public at large – and to policymakers in particular.

At the Community of Scholars research poster presentation, Shavern Browne discussed her research into factors that lead African American college students to contemplate suicide. Browne, pursuing a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, entitled her presentation “Perfectionism and Suicidality Among African Americans: Roles of Gender, Religiosity and Depression.”

Among her findings: worries about mistakes that might let down friends and family are a more powerful predictor of suicidal thoughts than gender, religion or even depression. Depression, however, becomes a more powerful predictor if it is accompanied by perfectionist tendencies.

In the general population, Browne added, females make more suicide attempts but males have more completions of the act. In her sample, however – African American college students – gender was not a factor.

Owiti Alex is pursuing an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Science. His research is designed to create chemical “jackets” to encase chemotherapy drugs. He is testing compounds called pentablock copolymers to surround the drugs so they can be delivered intact and undiluted directly to cancer cells, delivering a more potent dose of the drug where it is needed while reducing toxic side effects from the therapy. His research demonstrates that the copolymer is an effective casing for the drug.

“The next step is targeting,” Alex said – crafting an antibody to graft onto the copolymer shell that will attach to unique proteins found only on the surface of cancer cells, but not healthy cells.

Sarah Williams, a student in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, is pursuing a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. Her research is on the importance of sleep to general health, and makes the case for primary care health providers to include healthy sleep in their evaluation of a patient’s overall health.

Providers should investigate a patient’s “sleep hygiene,” she said, a term that refers to all the factors that can influence healthy sleep. These include avoidance of nicotine and caffeine for at least four hours before bed, and creating a cool, calm environment for sleep.

At the Three Minute Thesis competition, students did their best to grab and hold an audience’s attention while explaining complex theories and findings in understandable terms – and yes, it is every bit as challenging as it sounds.

“Imagine a nuclear weapon falling into the wrong hands” was an effective opening by Shailesh Dhungana for his presentation, “Finding a Way to Counter Nuclear Threat.” His research focuses on developing easier-to-make, lower-cost radiation detectors.

Physics student Dave Nair, sounding more than a little like superstar astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, waxed poetic with his opening: “Imagine this room as a rocket ship, taking us into space at the speed of light.”

His research, titled “Unveiling an Era of Stellar Baby Boomers,” crunches reams of data to narrow the search field for astronomers seeking to view the birth of new stars.

Melissa Veatch won the grand prize for her presentation, “Shut the Front Door: Principal Retention in Urban Education.” She opened with the shocking statistic that a full 50 percent of principals in urban schools leave their jobs within three years, leaving schools in constant states of chaotic transitions in leadership.

“Millions of our kids are not being educated in a stable environment,” she said. The goal of her research is to identify the motivating factors that keep successful urban principals in their jobs.

The full list of Community of Scholars event awards includes:

Superior Teaching Awards

  • Megan Ferrell, Masters Accounting
  • Emily Hedden, Masters Cell & Molecular Biology
  • Sara McClure, Masters Musicology

Symposium and Poster winners

Wednesday’s podium presentation winners:

  • 1st place ($200) – Rhianna Thomas
  • 2nd place ($100) – Munsur Rahman
  • 3rd place ($100) – Vibhuti Agrahari

Thursday’s poster presentation winners:

  • 1st place ($200) – Ashutosh Barve
  • 2nd place ($100) – Kameswara Mantha
  • 3rd place ($100) – Daniel Morel

Three-Minute Thesis award winners

Overall winner: Melissa Veatch.


  • Shailesh Dhungana “Finding a Way to Counter Nuclear Threat”
  • Dave Nair “Unveiling an Era of Stellar Baby Boomers”
  • Joshua Neustrom “Data Deduplication in Mobile Environments”
  • Mark Pederson “Saving the World (with OTEC)”
  • Munsur Rahman “Keep Your Arm Healthy to Change the World”
  • Daniel Shanaberger “The Stuff of the Universe”
  • Melissa Veatch “Shut the Front Door: Principal Retention in Urban Education”
  • Madalyn Weston “SED Disentanglement in Merging and Interacting Galaxies”
  • Ethan Zogg “We are Our Heroes: Using Universal Characters to Understand Societal Behaviors”


SGS Research Grant Recipients

Arts and Humanities

  • Andrew Davis, Ph.D. English and Humanities Consortium
  • Sydney Harvey, Masters Theater
  • Stephanie Klein, Master of Fine Arts
  • Amy Nygaard Mickelson, Ph.D. Art History and Humanities Consortium


Natural Sciences

  • Zainab Albader, Masters Chemistry
  • Ashutosh Barve, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chemistry
  • William Dexter, Ph.D. Cell Biology & Biophysics and Molecular Biology & Biochemistry
  • Christopher Nauman, Ph.D. Molecular Biology & Biochemistry and Cell Biology & Biophysics
  • Mark Rayhart, Ph.D. Chemistry and Physics
  • Kyle Scheel, Ph.D. Chemistry and Geosciences
  • Katherine Shortt, Ph.D. Cell Biology & Biophysics and Biomedical & Health Informatics
  • Zhen Zhao, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chemistry


Physical Sciences

  • Abdullah Alharbi, Ph.D. Electrical & Computer Engineering and Telecommunications & Computer Networking
  • Donald Baker, Ph.D. Engineering and Computer Science
  • Khagendra Baral, Ph.D. Physics and Chemistry
  • Mayanka Chandra Shekar, Ph.D. Computer Science and Telecommunications & Computer Networking
  • Robyn Daniels, Ph.D. Geosciences and Chemistry
  • Kalyan Durbhakula, Ph.D. Electrical & Computer Engineering and Physics
  • Gharib Gharibi, Ph.D. Computer Science and Telecommunications & Computer Networking
  • Joseph Haller, Masters Mechanical Engineering
  • Ryan Holmes, Ph.D. Engineering and Chemistry
  • Md Arif Iqbal, Ph.D. Electrical & Computer Engineering and Physics
  • Hammad Mumtaz, Ph.D. Engineering and Oral & Craniofacial Sciences
  • Jones Mutua, Ph.D. Mathematics and Physics
  • Siamak Riyazi, Ph.D. Engineering and Geosciences
  • Andrew Roberts, Ph.D. Engineering and Geosciences
  • Megan Stefanski, Ph.D. Mathematics and Cell Biology & Biophysics
  • Shimin Tang, Ph.D. Electrical & Computer Engineering and Mathematics


Social Sciences

  • Laura Faith, Ph.D. Clinical Psychology
  • Michelle Farrell, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology
  • Jessica LaFollette, Ph.D. Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Leadership, Policy & Foundations
  • Dea Marx, Ed.D. Higher Education
  • Joanna Maung, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology
  • Leah Panther, Ph.D. Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Leadership, Policy & Foundations
  • Ashleigh Pona, Ph.D. Clinical Psychology
  • David Scott, Ph.D. Clinical Psychology


Opportunity Fellowships

  • Mirella Flores, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology
  • Alyssa Joiner, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology
  • Marina Khan, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology


MacQuarrie Fellowships

  • Alexandria Booker, Ph.D. Clinical Psychology
  • Jennifer Schaafsma, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology


Graduate Alumni Fellowship

  • Sydney Morgan, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology


Graduate Faculty Fellowships

  • Akshay Jain, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chemistry
  • Kameswara Mantha, Ph.D. Physics and Electrical & Computer Engineering


Preparing Future Faculty Awards

Year 1

  • Wen Wen Chong, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology
  • Akshay Jain, Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chemistry
  • Sathya Jeevandba, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology
  • Colleen Kelly, Ph.D. Educational Leadership, Policy & Foundations and Public Affairs & Administration
  •  Mark Rayhart, Ph.D. Chemistry and Physics

Year 2

  • Kim-Ndor Djimadoumngar, Ph.D. Geosciences and Computer Science
  • Gharib Gharibi, Ph.D. Computer Science and Telecommunications & Computer Networking
  • Mirza Maswood, Ph.D. Telecommunications & Computer Networking and Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Sydney Morgan, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology
  • Munsur Rahman, Ph.D. Engineering and Mathematics
  • Jessica Ross, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology
  • Sumita Sarma, Ph.D. Entrepreneurship & Innovation


Aetna Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award

Andrew Stout, Masters Musicology

  • “Influence, Innovation, and Structure: Modernist Evaluative Criteria in the Reception Histories of Charles Ives and Jean Sibelius”
  • Adviser, Dr. Andrew Granade


Otis Worldwide Outstanding Dissertation Award

Michael Todd Gardner, Ph.D. Telecommunications & Computer Networking and Electrical & Computer Engineering

  • “Finding and Mitigating Geographic Vulnerabilities in Mission Critical Multi-Layer Networks”
  • Adviser, Dr. Cory Beard


Outstanding Dissertation Honorable Mentions:

  • Erdem Demiroz
  • Bhushan Deodhar
  • Morgan Grotewiel
  • Md Nahid Hossain
  • Kimberly Johnson
  • Larry Michael McCloud
  • Byeongtaek Oh
  • Feichen Shen

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