Alumni Association Dissertation Award Winners Spring 2011
Douglas F. Call, Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Engineering
(Adviser: Bruce Logan)
Doug’s research focuses on bioenergy production from wastewater using bioelectrochemical systems. His dissertation titled “Moving Bioelectrochemical Systems Toward Large Scale Applications Through Improvements in Reactor Designs and Understanding of the Microbial Ecology of Exoelectrogenic Bacteria,” aims to advance this emerging technology from the lab to full scale applications, such as wastewater treatment. Doug holds one patent and has published ten peer-reviewed papers, seven of which were published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the top journal in the field of Environmental Engineering. He received three national fellowships to support his graduate studies from the National Science Foundation, the American Society for Engineering Education, and the National Water Research Institute. In 2010, he won first place in the graduate student paper category at the Penn State College of Engineering Research Symposium.
Brendaly E. Drayton, Ph.D. Candidate in Adult Education
(Adviser: Esther Prins)
The title of Brendaly’s dissertation is “Literacy, Identity and African American Men’s Participation in Adult Basic Education and Literacy Programs.” Her research focuses on how African American men’s literacy experiences influence their perceptions of and engagement with adult basic education and literacy programs and how that in turn influenced their personal, vocational, and academic aspirations and expectations. Brendaly has received the African Research Center Research Proposal Grant and the College of Education Dissertation Initiation Grant. Most recently, she has been selected to participate in the 2011 American Educational Research Association’s preconference workshop: “Education Scholarship for the Public Good: Challenges and Opportunities of Research to Incite the Social Imagination.” Her publishing credits include three peer-reviewed articles and a fourth in press, one book chapter, three peer-reviewed conference papers and one technical report. In addition, she has been a Puksar-Holmes Scholar and a member of Pi Lambda Theta since 2006.
William H. Enck, Ph.D. Candidate in Computer Science and Engineering
(Adviser: Patrick McDaniel)
The title of William’s dissertation is “Analysis Techniques for Mobile Operating System Security.” His research focuses on security in mobile operating systems, specifically those for smartphones, seeking to understand the limitations of existing frameworks by analyzing the operational and security requirements of existing applications. His work has been covered by many international press venues, including CNET, Scientific American, and BBC News. Google has publicly acknowledged his efforts in improving security of the Android smartphone platform. He has authored twenty-four publications in books, journals, conferences, and workshops, of which he is first author on nine. He has been invited to and served on ten technical program committees, including the 2011 USENIX Security Symposium. In 2010, William received the Graduate Research Assistant Award in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Penn State.
Robert G. Franklin, Jr., Ph.D. Candidate in Psychology
(Adviser: Reginald Adams)
Robert’s dissertation, titled “Mentalizing and Its Influence on Face Memory: A Social Cognitive, Neural, and Applied Investigation,” examines how the mental processes involved with reading what other people are thinking influences who we remember. His research focuses on mentalizing, or the cognitive ability to know another’s mental state, and face memory. His dissertation examines if brain regions involved with mentalizing are actively connected and influence brain regions known to be involved with remembering faces. His work also examines how mentalizing may infl uence differences in memory for same- and other-race faces. A recipient of the University Graduate Fellowship, he has published nine peer-reviewed journal papers, four of which he is the first author, and presented poster and symposium presentations at several conferences.
Neelendra K. Joshi, Ph.D Candidate in Entomology and Comparative & International Education
(Adviser: Edwin G. Rajotte and Larry A. Hull)
Neelendra’s dissertation, “Codling Moth Ecology and Development of Phenology Models in Pennsylvania Apple Orchards,” examines new phenology models for effective management of codling moth (a serious pest of apples). His research may allow fruit growers to more accurately predict the presence of this pest, thus making its control more efficacious while reducing pesticide use. Neelendra has been a fellow of the Ford Foundation International Fellowship and a recipient of numerous other prestigious honors and awards, most notably the Graduate Student Service Award, Ardeth and Norman Frisbey International Student Award, W. LaMarr Kopp International Achievement Award, Michael E. Duke Memorial Scholarship in Entomology, and the Lloyd E. Adams Award in Economic Entomology at Penn State. Additionally, he has been awarded ten research and academic grants and nine research travel awards. Neelandra has presented at several professional meetings in different countries, and he has two books and several other publications to his credit including book chapters, research articles/reports and extension publications.
Sandeep Kumar, Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical Engineering
(Adviser: Aman Haque)
The title of Sandeep’s dissertation is “Fracture Testing of Nanoscale Thin Films.” His research focuses on characterization of mechanical properties (failure mechanisms) of freestanding nanoscale thin films. His work established the fracture and fatigue behavior of nanoscale aluminum thin films especially for very small grain sizes. It helped in establishing the experimental foundation for fl aw insensitive behavior of nanoscale thin films. His publishing credits include nine peer reviewed journal papers, three peer reviewed conference papers and nine technical conference presentations. His poster presentation at American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)- International Mechanical Engineering Conference and Exposition (IMECE) 2009 received an honorable mention, and at ASME-IMECE 2010, his poster received an innovation award.
Jennie S. Lavine, Ph.D. Candidate in Biology
(Adviser: Ottar Bjornstad)
Jennie’s thesis, “Pertussis on the Rise: Population Dynamical Effects of Waning Immunity,” examines possible causes for the recent resurgence of pertussis, or whooping cough, in highly vaccinated populations across the globe. In collaboration with public health departments in Massachusetts, USA and Norway, her work has shown that the observed pattern of increased incidence, particularly in teenagers, can be explained by assuming biologically realistic waning of vaccine-induced immunity and rapid boosting of immunity upon re-exposure to the causative agent, Bordetella pertussis. Her publications include a manuscript recently accepted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as three other peer-reviewed journal articles. In 2007-08, she was awarded the National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellowship, allowing her to bring the excitement of science to K-12 classrooms throughout central Pennsylvania.
Kevin E. Mueller, Ph.D. Candidate in Ecology and Biogeochemistry
(Co-advisers: David Eissenstat and Katherine Freeman)
Kevin’s dissertation, “The Influence of Trees on Soil Biogeochemistry,” explores the effect of common tree species on soil properties critical to forest function, including carbon storage, nutrient availability, and acidification. His research uncovers novel relationships between tree characteristics and soil processes, enhancing the understanding of forest dynamics in the past, present, and future. Kevin’s work was collaborative, involving scientists from several U.S. and European institutions, and interdisciplinary, as evident in presentations at meetings of national societies of ecologists, soil scientists, and geologists. He has published two journal articles with Penn State colleagues, including one in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While at Penn State, Kevin received fellowships from the U.S. Department of Energy, European Association of Organic Geochemists, and PA Space Grant. He was also co-author of two proposals funded by the National Science Foundation.
Carolyn E. Lubner, Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry
(Adviser: John Golbeck)
Carolyn’s research has focused on the creation of a photochemical device for the lightdriven generation of hydrogen gas, with the development of a novel technology to wire two metalloenzymes together. The title of Carolyn’s dissertation is “Light Induced Hydrogen Production from Photosynthetic Nanoconstructs.” Carolyn has amassed a publication record of nine articles, authored or co-authored, in top quality journals, and has submitted ten abstracts to professional conferences. She has been awarded several travel awards to present her research around the world, including one from Dow Chemical. She was also selected to represent the U.S. delegation at the 57th Lindau meeting of Nobel laureates and students in Lindau, Germany. In 2009, she was invited to present at the Gordon Research Conference in Photosynthesis, a distinction usually awarded to professors and exceptional post-docs. In addition, she is the recipient of a Roberts Graduate Fellowship.
Ersula J. Ore, Ph.D. Candidate in English
(Adviser: Keith Gilyard)
Ersula’s dissertation, “Rhetoric and Civic Belonging: Lynching and the Making of National Community,” explores lynching as rhetorical activity that contributes to the formation of American national identity and community. Her work pays particular attention to the spaces where legal code and social practice converge, how such convergences contribute to a racialized definition of American citizenship, and the ways in which visual and material culture help to sustain this definition. Ersula has presented her work at various national and regional conferences and has received several awards, the most recent being the RGSO Dissertation Award in 2010 and the Wilma Ebbitt Graduate Fellowship in 2009.
Ryan Patton, Ph.D. Candidate in Art Education
(Adviser: Karen Keifer-Boyd)
The title of Ryan’s dissertation is “Video Games in the Art Classroom: Complexity in Making Digital Media and Game Interfaces.” His research focuses on teaching youth (ages of 9-14) to reflect on complexity theory in their daily lives in the process of making video games – built from concepts of move, avoid, release, and contact (MARC) – assessing youth understanding of systems. The premise for this pedagogical approach is inspired from predigital game-like artworks created by Dadaists, Surrealists, Situationists, and Fluxus artists, understood as exercises in complexity theory using gaming methods to expose rules and systems, disrupting and challenging conventions. Ryan’s publishing credits include two peer-reviewed journal articles, two book chapters, and three peer-reviewed conference papers. In 2006-07, Ryan received the Graham Fellowship Award.
Nathan Masters Sorber, Ph.D. Candidate in Higher Education
(Adviser: Roger L. Geiger)
Nathan’s dissertation is titled “Social Class, Agriculture, and Higher Education: The Formation and Reformation of Land-Grant Colleges in the Northeastern United States.” His research explicates how the guiding principles of land-grant education developed from a class conflict between farmers, academics, and bourgeois reformers. This conflict was pronounced in the Northeastern United States, where the land-grant was often connected to traditional colleges established generations earlier. The dissertation explores how the coupling of the traditions of the old-time college with the goals of the Morrill Act produced a philosophical tension, and how through attempts to resolve that difference farmers and an emergent bourgeoisie came to define their class values and educational priorities. His credits include a dozen peer-reviewed conference papers and three peer-reviewed articles. Nathan served as the editor of the journal Higher Education in Review in 2009 and 2010.
Edward Wilson-Ewing, Ph.D. Candidate in Physics
(Adviser: Abhay Ashtekar)
Edward’s dissertation, “Loop Quantum Cosmology: Anisotropies and Inhomogeneities,” studies cosmological models within the theoretical framework of loop quantum gravity, a candidate theory of quantum gravity combining quantum mechanics and general relativity, in order to gain a better understanding of the properties and behavior of the very early universe. In particular, he has determined the quantum dynamics of space-times that allow both anisotropies and inhomogeneities, thus allowing the study of more realistic models of our universe that could provide significant insight into the earliest moments of the universe we live in. Edward has published seven peer-reviewed papers and has presented the results of his work at five international conferences. His graduate work has been supported by scholarships from the science foundations of Canada and Québec, as well as by the Mebus, Duncan and Braddock Fellowships from Penn State.