UM Graduate Students Awarded Grants to Fund Further Research

Sixteen University of Mississippi graduate students are continuing their exploration into research and creative scholarship pursuits such as Alzheimer’s disease, skin cancer and young adult literature in Mississippi classrooms as recent recipients of Graduate Student Council Research Grants.

The students each received one of the $1,000 competitive research grants funded by the university’s Graduate School and Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. The funds will be used for projects conducted over the next year or two.

The annual program was established more than 10 years ago at the suggestion of the Graduate Student Council to provide opportunities for graduate students to propose and conduct research projects beyond what was possible or likely with departmental funds alone. Also, since the students are competing for limited funds, the program helps them develop grant-writing skills that will increase their marketability and competitiveness for external and post-graduate opportunities.

“Graduate students actively contribute to the research and scholarship we do at the University of Mississippi,” said Annette Kluck, dean of the Graduate School and professor of leadership and counselor education.

“This program not only helps our graduate student applicants hone their research and grant-writing skills, but the funds also provide the recipients the funding needed to pursue more innovative and cutting-edge work that will address real-world problems.”

As part of the proposal, students were required to identify a suitable external funding opportunity to which they could apply for additional funding or resources, such as a travel grant program, internship opportunity or fellowship. They also received feedback from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs on how their submissions complied with standard guidelines used by well-known funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation.

“The process we have in place for the students gives them training on how to identify funding opportunities and on how to follow all the many detailed steps needed to prepare a compliant and inspirational application,” said Robert Doerksen, associate dean of the Graduate School and professor of medicinal chemistry in the Department of BioMolecular Sciences.

“This will help prepare the students for many kinds of careers in industry, academia or government which can require budgeting, identification of funding sources, applications for funding and detailed following of instructions.”

Shimikqua Ellis, who is pursuing a doctorate in education with an emphasis in secondary education, will use her grant to explore how Mississippi educators are using young adult literature to promote social justice in English language arts classrooms. Her study focuses on the popular young adult novel “The Hate U Give,” by Mississippi author Angie Thomas.

“This study will examine the experiences of educators teaching ‘The Hate U Give’ in Mississippi,” she wrote in her grant application. “When students read thought-provoking, engaging and relevant (young adult literature) it can increase their interest in reading and inspire them to read more books by (young adult) authors.

“This increase in literacy can improve students’ test scores and academic performance.”

For Praveen Kolimi, who is working toward a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences with an emphasis in pharmaceutics, the grant will allow him to continue his research into the topical application of itraconazole, known as ICZ, in skin cancer treatment.

“Very few drugs exist to treat skin cancer through the topical route,” he wrote in his grant application. “Here, we are executing studies on skin cancer via topical delivery with ICZ as the drug of choice.

“ICZ was chosen because it has shown anti-cancer activity. To our best knowledge, so far, ICZ has not been studied in skin cancer with the topical route of administration. We hope that with our study, ICZ with topical administration could mitigate the skin cancer worsening.”

The complete list of awardees, their graduate program and their application titles are:

  • Liya Abera, Ph.D. in engineering science with an emphasis in civil engineering, “Analysis of Technical and Cost Barriers for Implementation of Green Infrastructure”
  • Maali Alshammari, Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences with an emphasis in medicinal chemistry, “Synthesis of Fluoroflavonoids as Potential Antioxidant Against Alzheimer’s Disease”
  • Stacey Balkun, Ph.D. in English, “The Book of Red”
  • Pratap Bohara, Ph.D. in engineering science with an emphasis in geology, “Characterizing Multiscale Geometry, Anisotropic Behaviors, Bulk Properties and Wettability of the Woodford Shale”
  • Shimikqua Ellis, Ph.D. in education with an emphasis in secondary education, “‘The Hate U Give’ in Mississippi”
  • Cellas Hayes, Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences with an emphasis in pharmacology, “The Role of Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 in Specific Brain Cells Following Ischemia”
  • Jalen Holloway, master’s degree in biological science, “How is Sarracenia Alata Affected by Fire and Prey Capture?”
  • Sushmitha Inguva, Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences with an emphasis in pharmacy administration, “Assessing the Dyadic Relationship Between Sleep and Health-Related Quality of Life in PD Patients and Their Caregivers Using the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model”
  • Lauren Jordan, Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in experimental psychology, “An Investigation of Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction in Small Groups”
  • Praveen Kolimi, Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences with an emphasis in pharmaceutics, “Development of Itraconazole Topical Formulation in Skin Cancer Treatment”
  • Sushrut Marathe, Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences with an emphasis in pharmaceutics, “α-Tocopherol Succinate Nanostructured Lipid Carriers for the Ocular Delivery of the Anti-Neoplastic Agent”
  • Rashun Miles, Ph.D. in social welfare, “Compassion Fatigue Among Public Health Nurses in Michigan”
  • Salahuddin Mohammed, Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences with an emphasis in pharmacology, “Assessment of Underlying Neurocircuitry in Dysregulation of the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Stress Axis in HIV-1 Tat Male Mice”
  • Gauri Shadambikar, Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences with an emphasis in pharmaceutics, “Development of Inhalable Nano-lipid Carriers for the Treatment of Pulmonary Aspergillosis Using Hot Melt Extrusion Technology”
  • Daphney Stanford, Ph.D. in health and kinesiology, “A Comparison of Variability Between Absolute and Relative Blood Flow Restriction Pressures”
  • Griffin Williams, Ph.D. in biological science, “Mechanisms of Competitive Effects of an Invasive Grass on Native Vegetation in a Restored Upland Mississippi Forest”

By Shea Stewart

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