Alumni Association Dissertation Award Winners Spring 2010
Kevin R. Butler, Ph.D. Candidate in Computer Science & Engineering
(Adviser: Patrick McDaniel)
Kevin’s research focuses on the security of storage, large-scale systems, and networks. His dissertation, “Leveraging emerging storage functionality to provide new security services,” considers how advances in storage devices such as hard disks and fl ash drives can be used to improve the state of systems security. By autonomously enforcing security policies, a storage device can ensure data security even if the computer, to which it is attached, is compromised. Kevin has also examined malware propagation and web security, and he was a member of the EVEREST study of voting machines for the State of Ohio, the results of which changed state policy. He has published twenty-four peer-reviewed papers, including five journal articles, and has been a member of over twenty conference program committees. Kevin has been a recipient of a Symantec Research Labs Graduate Fellowship, a Penn State University Graduate Fellowship, and a C. Norwood Wherry Memorial Graduate Fellowship.
Jonathan S. Greer, Ph.D. Candidate in History
(Advisers: Baruch Halpern and Gary Knoppers)
In his dissertation, “Dinner at Dan: sacred feasting and social, political, and religious dynamics at Iron Age Tel Dan,” Jonathan examines textual and archaeological evidence for ritual eating activities that took place at an ancient Israelite shrine at Dan. He explores the relationship between changes in these practices and the larger social, political, and religious changes evident in this emerging Levantine community during the first millennium BCE. Jonathan is actively involved in excavations at the site, currently serving as a faunal specialist on the publication team. In addition to his dissertation, he has authored several recent articles in refereed academic journals, as well as a number of essays and reviews in larger works. He formerly taught at the Theological College of Zimbabwe, Africa, and, most recently, has been awarded a nine-month fellowship at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.
Matthew S. Hall, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology
(Adviser: Barrett Lee)
Matt’s research focuses on racial/ethnic inequality and immigrant incorporation in urban and suburban settings. His dissertation, “Living together, but a world away: the residential experiences of America’s new immigrants,” seeks to understand characteristics of the neighborhoods in which new immigrants have settled. Matt’s work sheds light on pressing issues about how immigrants are faring in their new land by examining with whom they are sharing communities, how residential sorting processes differ in “new” and “traditional” destinations, and the ability of immigrants to convert economic and social resources into quality neighborhoods and housing. His work has been featured in leading sociology and demography journals, including Social Forces, Demography, and Urban Studies. He is also author or co-author of more than ten publications. Through his affiliation with the Brookings Institution and the Institute of Government and Public Affairs, he is also actively engaged in disseminating his research to policymakers and other nonacademic audiences.
Hyunsu Kim, Ph.D. Candidate in Art Education
(Adviser: Christine Thompson)
Hyunsu’s dissertation, “Communicative aspects of children’s art making: an examination of the dialogic in children’s visual arts,” is an investigation into how children interact with each other, and how they build up communicative experiences through visual art-making in an early childhood classroom. This study adopts Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of communication and the dialogic nature of discourse in analyzing children’s verbal and visual utterances. Hyunsu is one of the contributors to the forthcoming book Practice Theory to be published by the National Art Education Association. She has made several presentations at the National Art Education Association conferences, the Pennsylvania Art Education Association Annual Conference, and the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry.
David R.Latulippe, Ph.D. Candidate in Chemical Engineering
(Adviser: Andrew L. Zydney)
David’s dissertation is titled, “Membrane-based processes for high resolution separation of plasmid DNA isoforms.” The focus of his research is to address the critical need for large-scale separation processes that can achieve excellent separation of supercoiled plasmids for their use as high value DNA therapeutics. His research combines both experimental work to better understand the behavior of plasmids in separation processes, such as membrane ultrafiltration and the development of appropriate theoretical frameworks to analyze the experimental results in terms of the underlying biophysical properties. He has published eight peer-reviewed journal articles, presented at six national conferences, and is a co-inventor on a pending U.S. patent, which is based directly on his dissertation work. A Penn State University Graduate Fellowship recipient, David has earned a number of awards during his academic career, including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Separations Division Graduate Student Research Award in 2008.
Megan L. Matthews, Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry
(Adviser: J. Marty Bollinger, Jr. and Carsten Krebs)
The title of Megan’s dissertation is “Harnessing the chloroferryl intermediate in the α-ketoglutaratedependent aliphatic halogenases: substrate-triggered formation, extraordinary stability, hydrogen abstraction proficiency, and radical rebound chemoselectivity.” Her thesis topic, the Fe(II) and alpha-ketoglutaratedependent aliphatic halogenases, install chlorine during biosynthesis of certain natural products. By characterizing the hydrogen-abstracting chloroferryl intermediate in the reaction, she determined how these enzymes specify this novel reaction outcome. This has been a fundamental mechanistic question in the field since these enzymes were discovered in 2005. Answering it involved the development of new methodology that expanded the capabilities and expertise of the group. Megan has seven publications, of which two were from her undergraduate training. She received the Braucher Fellowship, the Society of Biological Inorganic Chemistry Travel Grant to attend the 14th International Conference on Biological Inorganic Chemistry, and a Penn State Chemistry Department travel award.
Paige E.Miller, Ph.D. Candidate in Nutritional Sciences
(Adviser: Terryl J. Hartman)
Paige’s dissertation is titled “Dietary patterns, red and processed meat-derived mutagen exposure, and colorectal cancer risk.” Her research centers on methodological approaches in dietary pattern analysis and diet-related carcinogenic compounds, and cancer risk in population-based studies. Paige also completed a master’s thesis at Penn State that focused on life-style factors and cancer survivorship. She has authored or co-authored thirteen peer-reviewed journal articles, eleven national and international professional conference abstracts, a book chapter on geriatric malnutrition, and two book reviews. Paige was awarded an American Dietetic Association Foundation Scholarship and is a student interest group leader for the American Society for Nutrition. She was recently selected for a National Cancer Institute Cancer Prevention Fellowship, which will allow her to further her studies and research in public health and cancer prevention at Harvard University and the National Cancer Institute.
Julianna L. Pacheco, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science
(Adviser: Eric Plutzer)
Julie’s dissertation, “Dynamic public opinion and policy responsiveness in the American states,” investigates the functioning of democracy in the United States. The analysis, made possible by a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant, applies Bayesian small area estimation techniques to generate valid and reliable public opinion time series for each state. She finds that the preferences of ordinary citizens play a critical part in why states enact certain policies at particular times. Julie has authored or coauthored six articles, including one that was recognized by Discover magazine as one of the “Top 100 Science Stories of 2008.” Julie was recently awarded a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Post-doctoral Fellowship. The fellowship will support her research on the enactment of smoking restrictions by state governments while in residence at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.
Ezra G. Schwartzberg, Ph.D. Candidate in Entomology
(Adviser: James H. Tumlinson)
Ezra’s research focuses on the chemical interactions that mediate behavior between plants and their aphid herbivores. Specifically, he studies the way that aphid feeding influences the defense responses of plants. Through his research, Ezra has discovered that aphids are capable of evading plant defenses, providing insight into how aphids are such successful herbivores in the face of nature’s many ecological challenges. Ezra has been able to perform research on aphid ecology around the world, fostering collaboration with major research groups in Germany, England, and the Netherlands. He has presented his research findings nationally and internationally at twenty conferences and has published seven peer reviewed journal articles to date. Ezra has received several awards for contributions towards research and outreach including the International Organization for Biological Control’s Outstanding Ph.D. Student in Biological Control Award and the College of Agriculture’s Andrew V. Kozak Fellowship Award for Public Education.
Thomas L.Slewinski, Ph.D. Candidate in Plant Biology
(Adviser: David Braun)
The title of Tom’s dissertation is “Characterization of genes that regulate carbohydrate partitioning in maize.” His research focuses on the identification and functional characterization of genes that regulate carbon flux in maize leaves. Most of Tom’s research centers on the tie-dyed, psychedelic and sucrose transporter genes, which regulate the cell-to-cell movement of sugars. Because little is known about the genes that govern this process, his work has provided great insights into the genetic control of carbon transport in plants. Additionally, his work has the potential for far reaching impacts, from increasing yields in crop plants, to engineering superior feedstocks for biofuels production. He has published seven papers in the fields of plant biology and genetics, four of which he is the first author, and presented his work at three professional conferences. Tom has received multiple awards including Braddock fellowships, a Hill fellowship, and most recently, the 2009 Paul Berg Prize in Molecular Biology.
Joshua T.West, Ph.D. Candidate in Physics
(Adviser: Moses H. W. Chan)
Joshua’s dissertation titled, “The effects of disorder on superflow in quantum solid 4He,” looks at the properties of a recently discovered phase of solid helium at temperatures near absolute zero. Evidence of this state, called a supersolid, was discovered by Drs. Eun-Seong Kim and Moses Chan at Penn State in 2004. In this phase, the crystal behaves almost as if it can fl ow through itself. If confirmed as a true phase transition, this would constitute a new and exotic phase of matter. Joshua’s work at Penn State and in collaboration with several other groups has resulted in five peer-reviewed publications in Nature Physics and Physical Review Letters. He has also given four invited presentations at international physics conferences. Joshua has received a Downsbrough Graduate Fellowship, a David C. Duncan Graduate Fellowship, and an Oscar L. Roberts Graduate Fellowship in Physics.
Laura Wray-Lake, Ph.D. Candidate in Human Development and Family Studies
(Advisers: Constance Flanagan and Jennifer Maggs)
The title of Laura’s dissertation is “Value socialization processes between mothers and adolescents: links to adolescents’ social responsibility and health.” Her research focuses on understanding the development of adolescents’ personal values, how values are communicated by parents, and the role of values of social responsibility in promoting adolescents’ civic engagement and reducing substance use. Her doctoral research and training was funded by a National Research Service Award received from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Laura’s work has appeared in six peer-reviewed journal articles, four book chapters, three public media outlets, and over thirty peer-reviewed conference presentations. From 2004-2006, Laura held a Penn State University Graduate Fellowship, and she is an active member of the Society for Research on Adolescence, the Society for Research on Child Development, and the National Council on Family Relations.
Yue Bing Zheng, Ph.D. Candidate in Engineering Science & Mechanics
(Adviser: Tony Jun Huang)
Yuebing’s dissertation, “Molecular active plasmonics: harnessing molecular machines for nanophotonic applications,” centers on designing, modeling, and prototyping a new class of molecular, machine-based active plasmonic materials and devices, benefiting a range of applications, from optical communications to< medical diagnosis and therapy. His research work has been highlighted as a news story in Nature Material and Nature Photonics, and reported in numerous public media outlets. Yuebing has a productive research record, with twenty-six published journal papers, two book chapters, and a patent application pending. He has received a number of awards, including the 2009 Materials Research Society Graduate Student Award, the 2009 Rustum and Della Roy Innovation in Materials Research Award, the 2008 Founder’s Grant and Prize of the American Academy of Mechanics, the 2008 KAUST Scholar Award, and the 2007 Sabih and Güler Hayek Graduate Scholarship.