2021 CGRS Presenters

Eight graduate students will represent the University of Kansas Lawrence Campus at the 2021 Capitol Graduate Research Summit taking place virtually on February 18, 2021. Learn more about their research below.

For information about the event, and the other participating Kansas universities, please visit the Capitol Graduate Research Summit website.

Follow this link to visit the 2021 CGRS website to access the video presentations.

Srishti Baid | Microbiology | Advisor: P. Scott Hefty

Mapping Uncharted Biological Territory–Discovering Unique Factors for Novel Therapeutics in Chlamydia 

Sal RahmaniElusive, undetected, and on the rise, Chlamydia trachomatis accounts for the highest cases of bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Due to our limited understanding of what causes the disease, few treatment options are available. My research aims to unravel some of the genetic factors that are responsible for Chlamydia, to eventually develop, novel and effective targeted therapeutics.


Bailey Banach | Bioengineering | Advisor: Brandon DeKosky

Rapid Drug Discovery for Emergency Healthcare Interventions: Identifying Monoclonal Antibodies against SARS-CoV-2

Swarna VaidyanathanThe risk of developing severe COVID-19 infection is higher for individuals over the age of 60, as well as those who have serious medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer, or chronic lung disease. Over 500,000 Kansans – about two in every ten people – fall into these high risk categories. While vaccination treatments are underway, there is still a critical need for therapeutics to treat patients currently suffering from severe COVID-19 infection. The DeKosky research team at the University of Kansas includes Bailey Banach, a member of the Bioengineering graduate program, who's research involves rapidly discovering and characterizing monoclonal antibody proteins to help accelerate medical interventions against SARS-CoV-2. The goals of her research include mapping out in molecular detail how neutralizing antibody responses prevent viral infection, and then using this knowledge to help generate precision targeted medicines against SARS-CoV-2.


Kelsey Fortin | Health, Sport Management, and Exercise Science | Advisor: Susan Harvey

Hunger and Health: Understanding the Acceptability and Approach of a Health Coaching Intervention in the Food Pantry

Beth RankinThroughout Kansas, 13% of households reported being food insecure in 2018, and these numbers are continually rising with food banks/pantries in Kansas reporting a roughly 40-60% increase since the pandemic start. Not only is access to food an issue, food insecurity is a health disparity tied to poorer health outcomes (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, obesity), some of which outcomes are among the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States. With health coaching showing promise as an chronic disease management strategy in the medical setting, this project worked to explore the feasibility and approach of a future pilot intervention implementing a health coaching framework in the food pantry setting to address these growing public health issues among food insecure Kansans.


Stef Green | Chemical and Petroleum Engineering | Advisor: Bala Subramaniam

Intensified Formation of Value-added Products from Corn Cob Lignin via Spray Ozonolysis

Gregory LeungPlant wastes left behind during corn harvest, like cobs and stover, represent a remarkable opportunity toward green fuels and materials in a modern bioeconomy. However, only a fraction of the total biowaste can produce ethanol which leads to challenging economics for an industry of corn-based ethanol biofuel, unless more value is added. This technology incorporates a unique technique to transform ozone and the other fraction of biowaste, lignin, into value-added products, thereby creating an internal subsidy to corn-based biofuel and more value for Kansas corn.


Alexander Michalek | Civil Engineering | Advisor: Admin Husic

Modeling Linkages between Erosion and Connectivity in Urbanizing Johnson County, KS

Amirreza ZarnaghshHuman alterations to the landscape through agriculture and urbanization increase the potential for sediment erosion and connectivity to streams, which can negatively affect water quality and aquatic ecosystem health. There is a need for simple-to-use tools for identifying areas susceptible to erosion and stream connectivity to prevent further degradation of water systems. In this study, we unify two readily available tools, one for erosion and one for connectivity, under a single framework to identify and prioritize areas for watershed management.


Matheus Oliveira de Souza | Pharmaceutical Chemistry | Advisor: Brandon DeKosky

Fighting COVID-19: Discovery of Monoclonal Antibodies against SARS-CoV-2

Noriko NakamuraAs of January of 2021, over two million people have died from COVID-19 worldwide, and in the state of Kansas the virus SARS-CoV-2 has caused more than three thousand fatalities. Even though two vaccines have been authorized by the FDA, only one medication has yet been approved to treat the illness. Therefore, the goal of this research is to discover new monoclonal antibodies that can be used as a treatment for COVID-19, help with the design of efficient vaccines and diagnostic tools, and improve our understanding on the immune responses to SARS-CoV-2.


Manvendra Pal Singh | Medicinal Chemistry | Advisor: Zarko Boskovic

Finding Molecular Weakness of Multiple Myeloma

Amilee TurnerIn the United States, multiple myeloma (MM) is the most common type of blood cancer after non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In MM, rapidly multiplying cells overwhelm the normal blood production and destroy bone tissue. Five years after diagnosis only 54% of MM patients survive. The complex set of genetic mutations of this disease renders conventional therapies ineffective. Therefore, new ways to find weaknesses of MM are urgently required. Very often MM cells are dependent on the support of stromal cells for their survival. BRD9647 inhibits the MM cells selectively over normal stromal cells. Manvendra’s research is focused on the molecular understanding of events leading to this selective vulnerability of MM. This research will help the patients with MM by laying the groundwork for a potential new way to treat this disease.


Ankit Verma | Chemical and Petroleum Engineering | Advisor: Mark B. Shiflett

A Sustainable Process for Recycling of Spent Lithium-Ion Batteries

Maria TickerhoofIncreasing adaptation of hybrid and electric vehicles (HEVs) across the nation has driven the demand for lithium-ion batteries. In Kansas, a 26% increase in the HEVs has been seen in the past five years. To meet the critical metal demand for production of HEVs, an energy-efficient, economical, and environmentally-friendly recycling process is required. The oxalate-based recycling process developed and patented by the Shiflett research group at KU provides a route to efficiently recycle the metals from waste batteries at a temperature of 55 °C. The efforts towards maintaining the supply chain of the critical metals will position Kansas and KU as a center for the development of environmentally-friendly and economical critical metals recovery processes.

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