2017 University Graduate Fellows

Graduate Studies anticipates distributing approximately $1,000,000 in university graduate fellowship (UGF) funding to doctoral programs. The intent is to support departmental efforts that are aligned with the strategies and action items identified in strategic goal 2 of Bold Aspirations, the University’s strategic plan. That goal is to “Prepare doctoral students as innovators and leaders who are ready to meet the demands of the academy and our global society.”

 


Roberto Cervantes  | American Studies 

Research Interests

Cervantes’s research focuses on the relationship between capitalism and American democracy, particularly the history of poverty and civil rights in the U.S. South from the nineteenth century to today. 

 

 


William Garcia  | American Studies 

Research Interests

Garcia's research is aimed at re-narrating African American identity in the United States through an afro-diasporic lens that recognizes Black Atlantic “others” through historical literacies and media. Garcia is interested in showing how Afro-Americanness—as a homogenized identity that has been mediated through the nation—invisibilizes afro-diasporicity such as black migrant creolizations, and other marginalized groups in the United States while claiming national indifference and afro-diasporicity. He believes that exploring the interwoven and paradoxical intersections between national indifference and Black U.S. hierarchy will foster more unity and inclusive narratives among Afro-diasporic groups. 

 

 


Andrew Frazer | Clinical Child Psychology

Research Interests

At the broadest level, Frazer's research interests utilize a developmental psychopathology framework to better elucidate the various risk and protective factors associated with parenting and other familial factors as they relate to child and adolescent functioning. Informed by self-determination theory of motivation and well-being, Frazer seeks to conduct translational research focusing on family dynamics and processes that offer trans-diagnostic clinical implications. His specific interests lie in the area of parental influence and control, especially as it relates to children’s sense of competence, relatedness, and autonomy across development. Frazer's research to date has been strongly influenced by ecological systems theory and social learning theory to explain the ways in which the family acts as a salient context for social, emotional, and behavioral development. He am interested in the family as an ecological system, wherein series of intra- and inter-system exchanges occur. 

 

 


Adrian Ortega​ | Clinical Child Psychology

Research Interests

Ortega is interested in the behavioral predictors of both adaptive and maladaptive chronic disease management in youth and families. More specifically, Ortega’s research interests include the development and utilization of digital technology to measure the associations between child health behaviors, such as sleep and physical activity, and corresponding health outcomes, such as pain and disease morbidity, within childhood chronic illness. Ortega hopes this research informs the translation of behavioral science into pediatric clinical care. 

 

 


Johnna Bateman | Communication Studies

Research Interests

 

 


Daniel Chick | Communication Studies 

Research Interests

Chick’s research in Communication studies falls most neatly into rhetorical studies, and how ideology is discursively shaped in political and religious spheres. His current interests find him investigating the rhetorical oddities and anomalies of the 2016 Presidential Campaign. Chick has also examined ideologies and rhetoric from conservative groups in the United States.

 

 


Shamus Cooley​| Computational Biology 

Research Interests

Shamus received his undergraduate degree in math from the University of Kansas.  His undergraduate research involved the use of a mathematical concept called a Bourgain embedding to increase the speed and accuracy of searches over genomic databases.  He is broadly interested in the novel application of math and computer science to illuminate questions in biological and medical research.

 

 


Leah Mortenson  | Curriculum and Teaching

Research Interests

Mortenson is a second-year doctoral candidate whose research interests include the factors involved in the continuation of the school-to-prison pipeline, the role of school resource officers (SROs), and the potential of restorative justice practices to disrupt this pattern. She is additionally interested in students’ and teachers’ perceptions of safety in schools that have SROs, and those that do not. She is currently conducting her dissertation research in Baltimore, Maryland.

 

 


Marlon Cobos Cobos​ | Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Research Interests

Cobos’ research is focused on understanding the main sources of variation in ecological niche models’ projections and how this variation should be considered when time and space transferences are done. He is currently assessing the implications of using different niche models' parametrizations in studies concerning climate change effects on species distribution.

 


Rene Martin | Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Research Interests

Martin’s research has focused on resolving the phylogenetic relationships of lanternfishes and the evolution of their feeding structures. She is continuing her work on lanternfishes, exploring various morphological characters including the evolution of their body shape and bioluminescent light organs.

 

 


Robert Ramos ​ | Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Research Interests

Evolutionary Biology has always been central to his research focus. Ramos is specifically interested in the evolution and persistence of symbiotic relationships. Mycorrhizal fungi are a vital vital part of the soil community that have strong symbiotic relationships with many prairie plants. Having grown up in the Midwest, Ramos has always been fond of prairie systems. The high rate of both natural and anthropogenic disturbances create an intriguing research venue. He also has a background in geospatial analysis and would like to apply geospatial modeling techniques to prairie systems and symbiotic mycorrhizal relationships.

 

 


Megan Dennis ​ | English

Research Interests

Dennis’s primary research interests within 20th-century American literature include race and gender studies, trauma theory, and eco-criticism, as well as an emphasis in Southern literature and early African American detective fiction. She is particularly interested in these areas as they reclaim previously silenced voices, and as they expose and resist systemic oppression. Her master’s thesis traces the trajectory of early African American detective fiction through the works of Pauline Hopkins and Rudolph Fisher and investigates the inversion of traditional detective tropes as a way to question race, identity, and systems of knowledge.

 

 


Christopher Peace ​​ | English

Research Interests

Peace holds a masters degree in literature from Jackson State University, where he completed his thesis entitled, "Zora Neale Hurston's Conjure Memes: A Post-structuralist Analysis of Mules and Men and Tell My Horse." Some of his academic interests include ethnographic writing, creative nonfiction, cultural memetics, African Diaspora spiritual systems, ecocriticism, afrofuturism, and African American folklore. 

 

 


Lois Stevens​ | Geography

Research Interests

Stevens's research interests involve Indigenous food systems and the effects of climate change on traditional growth and harvesting practices within Indigenous communities. Focused on the ability for communities to adapt to potential changes, his research incorporates psychological barriers to change important in understanding how to develop and maintain effective adaptation. The purpose of my research is to assist Indigenous communities with protecting and preserving cultural relationships with their traditional foods. 

 

 


Daniel Chmill  ​ | History 

Research Interests

Chmill studies 20th century American environmental history with research focusing on U.S. national parks. His interests include human interactions with land comprising and surrounding national parks. He also hopes to explore ways in which reorganizing physical space affects accessibility to park lands through lenses of race and class.

 

 


Delaney Wilson​​ | Linguistics 

Research Interests

Wilson’s research interests focus on second language acquisition and neurolinguistics, specifically how adult second language learners acquire and process their new language. Her goal is to work with less commonly taught languages with the hope of finding more efficient teaching methods.

 

 


Emma Christensen​​ | Mathematics

Research Interests

Christensen’s research interests are in combinatorics. Her previous research focused on pattern avoidance in set partitions, specifically the equidistribution of the Wachs and White statistics between avoidance classes based on partitions of size four.

 

 


Lindsay Kornberger​ | Medicinal Chemistry

Research Interests

Kornberger's research project involves synthesizing amino acid peptides for evaluation as standards for further biological testing specifically in reference to Alzheimer's disease. Previously, she was involved in synthesizing small, novel covalent CCR1 antagonists for the treatment of Glioblastoma.  

 

 


Patrick Ross​ | Medicinal Chemistry

Research Interests

Ross's research interests are around the design and synthesis of small organic molecules.  Previously he has investigated small molecules with a variety of application including molecules with solvatochromic properties, biologically active molecules with antifungal and antioxidant properties, and the discovery of Trigriluzole a Riluzole pro-drug.

 

 


Cindy Ly | Molecular Biosciences

Research Interests

Ly's current research focuses on understanding virus-host interactions in the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) life cycle. One major area of interest is to delineate mechanisms by which a major viral regulatory factor destabilizes host cell proteins while contributing to viral replication and pathogenesis. As part of her thesis research, she is also identifying novel compounds that impair HSV-1 growth. With this work, she hopes to better understand HSV-1 and find possible drugs for prevention and treatment. Aside from research, an important interest of Ly as a scientist is to continuously encourage and expand the sciences within the community, advocating students to pursue science in higher education.

 

 


Tommaso Isidori​ | Physics and Astronomy

Research Interests

Isidori's interest has always been focused on projects related to research and development of particle detectors. His bachelor thesis was based on characterizing and optimizing GEM (Gas Electron Mutiplier) detectors on behalf of the TOTEM experiment at CERN Gas Detector Development lab, while his masters thesis regarded the development of a diamond timing detector that will be used in the new set up of TOTEM and CT-PPS experiments. Isidori's research interest continues geared towards similar topics, two of which will be the focus of his research at KU: the analysis of central diffraction events on behalf of the CT-PPS collaboration and the development of a general purpose timing detector based on LGAD (Low Gain Avalanche Detectors) silicon detectors, technology that has shown promising results in terms of timing precision during the last years.  

 

 


Ting Ai​​ | Psychology

Research Interests

Ai's research interest is based on the close relationship and attachment theory. Specifically, there are three areas associated to her research interest. First, she is interested in the function of attachment security in the close relationship, and improving such attachment security. Second, the interest in integrating attachment and sex research to explore the role of sex in the development of attachment between romantic partners. Lastly, Ai is interested in the cultural differences that can be identified in close relationship. 

 

 


Navante Peacock ​ | Psychology

Research Interests

Broadly, Peacock's research interests focus on stereotyping and prejudice. More specifically, he is interested in perceptions of subtle versus overt expressions of prejudice. Peacock is also interested in the role that interpretations of feedback have on stereotyped groups’ perceptions of themselves and others, as well as the consequences of these interpretations.

 

 


Xian Zhao ​​ | Psychology

Research Interests

Zhao is interested in the consequences of perceiving others as members of social groups. Specifically, two lines of his research (adopting ethnic majority names and its consequences; China-US relations and assimilation attitudes) focus on how social categorization reduces equality of treatment of ethnic minorities and foreign individuals. His research aims to shed light on promoting positive intergroup and triadic-group relations from the perspective of acculturation and creating a multicultural environment.

 

 


Matt Comi | Sociology

Research Interests

Comi's research explores material relationships between humans and non-humans in contemporary agri-food systems. Currently, he is finishing a qualitative project with seed dealers operating in and around Kansas under contract with top ten agrochemical or seed production corporations. This project includes twelve on-site interviews exploring the relationships between seeds, chemicals, sellers, farmers, and the corporations which produce these seeds and chemicals. Comi is also exploring new research on agricultural changes resulting from industrial beer production and the growing craft-beer market. Particularly, he is exploring the social relations in the expanding hops-growing regions in Washington State and New Zealand. In both cases Comi utilizes assemblage-thinking, new-materialist approaches to understand and critique social, environmental problems.

 

 


Guillermina Peña Sandoval​ ​ | Spanish and Portuguese 

Research Interests

Peña Sandoval’s investigation explores the symbolic representations of the Mesoamerican practice of “nahualismo:” the possession of an animal by a human soul (Martínez González, Nahualismo, 2011) in literature, painting, and photography. She focuses her study in the literary and visual nahualistic expressions by Mexican female creators.

 

 


Angel Ranales Pérez | Spanish and Portuguese 

Research Interests

Ranales’s research interests focus on the intersection between the introduction of print culture in fifteenth-century Castile and the evolution of chivalric practices in such location. His investigation explores how the visualization of jousts and tournaments by the reader/spectator fostered a new readership in the Late Medieval period. Ranales’s project seeks to understand the socio-cultural dynamics and moral behaviors of knighthood in those particular game spaces from a contemporary sport lens; thus, looking at chivalric activities and relations of fifteenth-century Castile in a new particular way. 

 

 


William Profitt​ | Special Education

Research Interests

Broadly, Profitt is interested in the intersections of race, gender, and disability in the context of educational institutions. Specifically, he is interested in how black boys with disabilities understand and respond to the complex images of black masculinity that are shaped and created by public schools—particularly those with police presence.

 

 


Sohyun Yang | Special Education

Research Interests

Yang's research area is Universal Design for Learning(UDL) and her general interest is instructional technology and instructional design for full inclusive education environment. Yang has studied instructional technology in special education environments, perception of people without disabilities on people with special needs and their parents' involvement, as well as the status of utilizing leisure of students with developmental disabilities.  

 

 


Kaitlyn Tossie​ | Theatre

Research Interests

Tossie's research interest in Theatre Studies primarily focuses on theatre in times of duress and conflict. She is specifically concerned with the intersection of genocide and theatre. Tossie is also interested in gendered questions that arise from this intersection. 

 

 


Allison Smith | Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Research Interests

Smith is interested in the interconnections among sexuality, feminist identity development, and body image. Her previous research focused on victimization and resilience in rural Appalachia. 

 

 


 


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