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Five Outstanding Grad Students Honored with Dean's Mentorship Awards

The College is proud to announce its 2013 Dean’s Mentorship Award winners, five graduate students who have demonstrated excellence both in their own research and in their skills teaching undergraduate students how to conduct exemplary bench science.

Each winner receives a $2,500 award to directly fund his or her research, and a second, equal amount to pay undergraduate assistants. In addition to aiding the College’s top graduate researchers in developing their teaching skills, the awards support Dean James Hildreth’s mission to give all CBS undergraduates real laboratory experience. They are made possible by generous gifts to the College of Biological Sciences Dean’s Circle and Annual Fund.

This year’s honorees:

Geoff Benn is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in plant biology who works in Professor Katie Dehesh’s lab. His research focuses on plant stress perception and subsequent early signal transduction events, specifically those involved in the plant response to diverse stresses. He has experience mentoring undergraduates in all aspects of investigation, and takes a keen interest in helping them develop both as investigative scholars and as meticulous lab workers.

Shannamar Dewey is a graduate student in the Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology program working in Assistant Professor Aldrin Gomes’ lab. She has directly supervised undergraduate researchers in her work studying enzyme activities in mice muscle and liver during early type 1 diabetes. She is currently doing the same in a study of whether total protein synthesis (using a novel non-radioactive model) changes during early and late type 1 diabetes.

Crystal Coolbaugh, a graduate student based in Professor David Hawkins’ Human Performance Lab, has mentored more than 12 undergrad students in just the past two years. In her current work, two undergraduates are using prototypes of a cell-phone sized monitor—designed by Coolbaugh—in conjunction with a blood glucose monitor to record physical activity intensity simultaneously with blood glucose levels. Crystal has mentored these students in experimental design and guided them through the process of gaining IRB approval for human testing.

Michiko Kato conducts longevity research in Associate Professor Su-Ju Lin’s lab in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. The major research interest of the lab is to understand the molecular mechanisms of longevity regulation, calorie restriction and cellular aging in S. cerevisiae. There, Michiko has been studying novel longevity factors in yeast with a focus on those that also regulate NAD+ metabolism. She is currently mentoring an undergraduate on a project to study four human homologs of a NR (NAD intermediate metabolite) transporter that the lab identified in yeast. This family of transporters has been associated with several human diseases.

Rita Luu is a third-year Ph.D. student in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics who works in Professor Rebecca Parales’ lab. Luu’s research is central to the lab’s success in studies of bacterial degradation of aromatic compounds and chemotaxis to these chemicals. This winter, Luu’s first manuscript was accepted for publication in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, with two of her undergraduate assistants as co-authors.

To learn more about how you can support awards like these, contact Jennifer Woo at jenwoo@ucdavis.edu or 530.754.9253.