2015 - 2016


April 1, 2016
​​Goldwater Foundation Recognizes Two CMU Students
 
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship Program was created to encourage outstanding undergraduate students to pursue research careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.​ From a competitive pool of 1150 nominations the Goldwater Foundation received nationwide for the 2016 competition, 252 were named Scholars and 256 were awarded Honorable Mentions. ​

Two CMU students have been recognized this year for their outstanding academics and research involvment. 


Kristopher Kieft: Named Goldwater Scholar​​

Kieft.jpgKristopher Kieft, a Rothbury, MI junior Honors student majoring in Biology has been named a 2016 Goldwater Scholar, the first in CMU history.
 
After completing his bachelor's degree, Kieft plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Virology, preparing himself for a career in academia or within a government facility conducting research on pathogenic viruses. Kieft's passion for research will be a guiding force as he pursues his career: "My years in the lab have shaped my desire to conduct research end I cannot imagine a career in anything else."
Brent Piligian: Awarded Goldwater Honorable Mention

 
 
Brent Piligian: Awarded Goldwater Honorable Mention
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Brent Piligian, a Plymouth, MI junior majoring in Biomedical Science and Neuroscience has been named a 2016 Goldwater Honorable Mention, the third in CMU history to receive this recognition.
 
After completing his bachelor's degree, Piligian plans to pursue a M.D./Ph. D. in Chemical and Molecular Biology, and conduct biomedical research with a focus on diseases of the musculoskeletal system. His ultimate goal is to work in an academic hospital and teach in a university setting.  An intensive summer research experience in 2015 strengthened Piligian's passion for medical discovery, "I started to realize the crucial impact that research can have on not only me, but society."
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March 23, 2016
CMU Student Receives Fulbright Study/Research Grant 

Alyssa Shepard: Fulbright Recipient - United Kingdom

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Senior Honors student, Alyssa Shepard from Holland Michigan, has been offered a prestigious 2016-2017 Fulbright Study/Research Grant to the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. 

Shepard will be completing graduate level study in a Cancer Cell and Molecular Biology program at University of Leicester in addition to representing the United States as a cultural ambassador while overseas, helping to enhance mutual understanding between Americans and the people in United Kingdom.

The Fulbright U.S. Student​ grants are nationally competitive and the U.K. awards are some of the most competitive within the Fulbright Program. Shepard is the first CMU student since 2004 to win a Fulbright Study/Research Grant, and only the third CMU student to receive a Fulbright Study/Research Grant since the Fulbright Program began in 1948.
 

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The Program operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

Fulbright recipients are among over 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education.

Congratulations Alyssa! 


 
February 9, 2016
Three Students Nominated to Compete for Goldwater Scholarships

 The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served for 56 years as a soldier and U.S. senator. Scholarships are awarded each year to approximately 300 college sophomores and juniors committed to pursuing research careers in mathematics, engineering, or the natural sciences.​

 Miranda Hengy: Biology​
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Miranda Hengy, an Onekama, MI junior Honors student majoring in Biology has been nominated by CMU to compete for a 2016 Goldwater Scholarship. 

During her freshman year, Hengy began working in Dr. Deric Learman's environmental microbiology lab and she had the opportunity to participate in a variety of research projects. She initially worked on a project that examined the response of a particular species of bacteria to oxidative stress. She continues to volunteer and research under the guidance of Dr. Learman.  Hengy states, "To me, the most important outcomes of my volunteer work within the Learman lab are the variety of research skills I have acquired."

In summer 2014, Hengy participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates program where she spent ten weeks at CMU's Biological Station on Beaver Island. She studied the microbial communities present in lake water, monitoring how they evolved over the course of the summer in response to lake stratification.  Hengy credits this experience as the defining moment that sealed her desire to pursue a career in research. She has presented her findings at the Michigan Environmental Laboratory Association Scholarship Reception in Lansing, MI, at the Institute for Great Lakes Research Student Symposium in Mt. Pleasant, MI, and at the Michigan state capitol building in Lansing, MI.

In addition to being an undergraduate research volunteer, Hengy is involved in several professional development activities.  She is an active member of the CMU Pre-Vet club, the Wildlife Society, and the Humane Animal Treatment Society. She has also participated in leadership conferences such as "LeaderShape" and "Connections." Finally, Hengy takes great pride in her role as a peer mentor for the Science and Technology Residential College. 

After completing her bachelor's degree, Hengy plans to earn a Ph.D./DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), focusing on the relationships between microorganisms and animals.  She views her passion for research as an opportunity to "contribute knowledge that will help keep animals healthy."​


Kristopher Kieft: Biology

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Kristopher Kieft, a Rothbury, MI junior Honors student majoring in Biology has been nominated by CMU to compete for a 2016 Goldwater Scholarship.

In 2013, Kieft began participating in research under the guidance of Dr. Michael Conway who studies emergent viruses, specifically looking at Dengue Fever and related viruses.  This particular work focuses on identifying the limitations of an insect virus to infect vertebrates and how pathogenic viruses evade the innate immune system in vertebrates.  Kieft has presented his research twice at CMU's Student Research and Creative Endeavors Exhibition (SRCEE), the Honors SRCEE, and has co-authored several articles that have been submitted to professional academic journals.  He continues to conduct research with Dr. Conway, stating that his involvement within this lab "has significantly motivated [him] to pursue a career in research."

In addition to research, Kieft is also involved in many extracurricular activities related to his interests. He is a Biology Department tutor, Campus Grow participant, and a member of the Honor Program Philanthropic Society, among others. In summer 2015, Kieft was the recipient of the Undergraduate Summer Scholars Program award which enabled him to spend the summer at CMU in an intensive independent research experience. This high degree of responsibility gave him the opportunity "to experience a new outlook on research."

After completing his bachelor's degree, Kieft plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Virology, preparing himself for a career in academia or within a government facility conducting research on pathogenic viruses. Kieft's passion for research will be a guiding force as he pursues his career: "My years in the lab have shaped my desire to conduct research end I cannot imagine a career in anything else."


Brent Piligian: Biomedical Science and Neuroscience

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Brent Piligian, a Plymouth, MI junior majoring in Biomedical Science and Neuroscience has been nominated by CMU to compete for a 2016 Goldwater Scholarship.

In 2014, Piligian began participating in research under the guidance of Dr. Benjamin Swarts, and has since been involved in many research projects. Piligian is currently working on independent research to develop a new method for the fast, cost effective, and high yield production of 14C trehalose using the enzyme trehalose synthase from Thermoproteus tenax.  Other research projects have focused on developing new methods for facilitating the study of interactions between cell surface biomolecules in living systems, having implications for potential new avenues toward combating Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of the disease tuberculosis. He has co-authored two research manuscripts and has presented findings at an American Chemical Society conference in Saginaw, MI, and also at the West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Research Conference in Grand Rapids, MI.  These experiences have allowed him to "better understand how [he] can use what [he has] learned in the classroom to fuel future scientific discovery."

In addition to participating in research, Piligian is involved in many pre-professional development activities.  At CMU, he has been the President of the Health Professions Residential College and Pre-Medicine & Osteopathic Society, a tutor for student athletes, and an HPS 101 Teaching Assistant. He has also attended numerous leadership development programs such as LeaderShape and the CMU Leadership Institute's Ignite Leadership.

After completing his bachelor's degree, Piligian plans to pursue a M.D./Ph. D. in Chemical and Molecular Biology, and conduct biomedical research with a focus on diseases of the musculoskeletal system. His ultimate goal is to work in an academic hospital and teach in a university setting.  An intensive summer research experience in 2015 strengthened Piligian's passion for medical discovery, "I started to realize the crucial impact that research can have on not only me, but society."


 
January 18, 2016
Three Students Named Semi-Finalists for Fulbright Grants​
 
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          Taylor Ackerman                          Paige Rogers                        Alyssa Shepard
 

National Screening Committees for the Institute of International Education (IIE) announced recently that three CMU students, Taylor Ackerman, Paige Rogers, and Alyssa Shepard, have been selected as semi-finalists for prestigious 2016-17 Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant​s. Their applications have been forwarded to the appropriate supervising agencies abroad for the next stage of the competition. 

Ackerman, a senior Honors student from Charlevoix, MI, is competing for a Fulbright grant to study International Relations at Leiden University in the Netherlands; Rogers, a senior Honors student from Traverse City, MI, is competing for a English Teaching Assistant grant to France; and Shepard, a senior Honors student from Holland, MI, is competing for a grant to study Cancer Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

Being selected as a semi-finalist at the national level is an honor in itself. These students now move to the next stage of the selection process at the international level. Finalists will be announced this spring. 


 
December 7, 2015
​​​​Five Students Nominated to Compete for Fulbright Grants

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The Program operates in over 160 countries worldwide.​

Taylor Ackerman: Study Grant Nominee - Netherlands
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Taylor Ackerman, a senior, Honors student, from Charlevoix, is planning a career as a refugee and human rights lawyer.

If awarded a Fulbright Grant, Ackerman will complete advanced study at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, a university renowned for its contributions in international law and international relations.

Moreover, studying at the University of Leiden will give Ackerman access to additional professional experience at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

"For an international relations student and aspiring human rights and refugee lawyer, the Hague's culture of human rights education and discussion of international law is incomparably enriching," Ackerman said.

Ackerman has had the opportunity to engage in several international experiences – she has lived in Germany, Singapore, and Korea, and studied abroad three times in the Hague, Netherlands - from which she has developed an understanding of human rights issues.

After studying in the Hague, Ackerman made it her mission to bring human rights awareness to Central Michigan University. Ackerman is the president, founder, and activism chair of Amnesty International at CMU. She has held positions on the International Criminal Court Student Network, is the vice president of Students Against slavery, and has held leadership positions in a number of other international relations and human rights related organizations.

Upon completing her masters degree in international relations, Ackerman aims to pursue a career in human rights law.


Joel Maki: Fulbright Canada STEM Grant Nominee

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Joel Maki, a senior, Honors student, from Hancock, became especially interested in microbiology while studying abroad. While at a livestock-filled market, Maki realized that this environment - full of freshly butchered pigs and squawking chickens - was exactly the type of place where SARS and avian flu originate.

Since then, Maki has been passionate about microbiology research. He hopes to continue his study at one of the leading universities involved in the Fulbright Canada STEM award program.

If he receives the award, Maki would receive funding to complete a doctorate at a top-tier Canadian university while also conducting research in the field of virology.

Maki has been preparing for graduate level training by participating in undergraduate research under the guidance of Dr. Elizabeth Alm. Dr. Alm's lab, in conjunction with Montana State University, is trying to determine if the presence of “cryptic clades” is compromising the usage of E. coli as a fecal indicator bacterium in freshwater environments (like beach sand). 

"The Fulbright Canada STEM award scholarship will provide me with a chance to continue my education at one of the top universities in the world on route to a career in microbiological research," Maki said.

After completing his graduate degree in Canada, Maki hopes to seek employment at either the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization, where he would conduct research on "newly-emergent zoonotic diseases."


 Kelsey Mankel: Fulbright Canada STEM Grant Nominee

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Kelsey Mankel, a Lowell senior, Honors student, has been captivated by the world of music for the past eleven years. Her interest in neuroscience is more recent, but has allowed her to connect her passions for music and science. If awarded a Fulbright Canada STEM Award, Mankel aims to study auditory cognitive neuroscience, or music's impact on the brain, at a graduate program in Canada.

Mankel's interest in music began when she first learned to play the oboe. Still, Mankel craved to further her study of the sciences in college. "I believed I had to choose between music and sciences to be successful," Mankel said.

She was delighted when she read about auditory cognitive neuroscience, and her study of music, neuroscience, and psychology at Central Michigan University, as well as her pre-professional activities, will help prepare her for graduate level training. She has been involved in the Brain Research and Integrative Neuroscience lab, shadowed local therapists practicing music therapy, and under the guidance of Professor Jennifer Kitchen, she is currently expanding previous research on the effects of musical training on spatial representation.

A Fulbright Canada STEM grant, will provide Mankel the opportunity to pursue a doctorate of neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal, which supports the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research. Using advanced neuroscience imaging technology provided by the lab, Mankel hopes to compare the brains of musicians' and non-musicians' along a variety of dimensions.

Mankel is excited about the prospect of delving deeper into research combining her interests, "Neuroscience is a way to understand the world from an objective perspective," she said. "Music is a way to understand the world from a human perspective."


Paige Rogers: English Teaching Assistantship Nominee - France
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Paige Rogers, a senior, Honors student, from Traverse City, hopes to enhance her preparation for a career in education through an English Teaching Assistantship in France.

Rogers, a French-secondary education major, is a natural representative of the Fulbright mission to increase cultural exchange between the U.S. and other countries. Through the English Teaching Assistantship, Rogers would be able to introduce French students to American traditions, meanwhile gaining a more complete understanding of France and its people which she can bring back to her classroom in the U.S.

In the fall of 2013, Rogers spent a semester studying at the Catholic University of the West in Angers, France. "That semester was not only a huge turning point in my language skills as a French speaker, but an affirmation of my love for the culture and the history of this country," Rogers said.

Rogers has been active in academic and extracurricular activities throughout her time at CMU. She has mentored college freshmen, conducted math review sessions, and has spent much of her college career as a French tutor. In addition, she has been an assistant swim coach at the Mount Pleasant Swim club, has been involved in French Club, was a Leadership Camp Facilitator, served on the Student Budget Allocations Committee, and was on the academic senate for the Professional Education Curriculum Committee.

After completing her English Teaching Assistantship, Rogers hopes to continue her teaching career in Michigan. Her goal is to bridge the cultural gap between classrooms in France and the United States, using teaching connections she hopes to develop in France to establish international classroom relationships.


Alyssa Shepard: Research Grant Nominee - United Kingdom
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 Alyssa Shepard, a senior, Honors student from Holland, Michigan, believes that the quickest way to finding the cure for cancer is through collaboration.

If awarded a Fulbright grant, Shepard will pursue a graduate degree at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Studying at one of the premiere cancer research universities is just one of her goals for the Fulbright grant. She also hopes to help foster research partnerships between the United States and the UK.

The University of Leicester is sponsored by Cancer Research United Kingdom, or CRUK. Through the CRUK initiative, Shepard plans on pursuing research in breast cancer detection. She also hopes to get involved in a program called REACH, which encourages young people to pursue higher education in the U.K.

This would not be Shepard's first time in the U.K. She enrolled in a Harry Potter literature course in spring 2015, traveling from Edinburgh, Scotland, through Durham, Oxford, and then London, England. She also spent four weeks in Scotland studying at the University of Stirling.

Shepard has also been actively involved in undergraduate research, and related pre-professional activities. She has been participating in research at CMU under the guidance of Dr. Michelle Steinhelb, and last summer she contributed to Lorenzo Sempere's research at the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids.

"Having the opportunity to return to the U.K. for graduate study, under a highly specific cancer focused program, would enable me to continue integrating myself into the culture, learn more about the people, and therefore, become an effective ambassador between the U.S. and the U.K.," Shepard said.

 
 
October 16, 2015
Two Students Nominated to Complete for Marshall  Scholarships

The Marshall Scholarship Program seeks to strengthen the long-standing relationships between U.K. and U.S. peoples, governments, and institutions by providing top American students opportunities to complete one or two years of graduate level training in any field of study at British universities.  
 
Taylor Ackerman: Political Science
2015-0786-002  Taylor Ackerman.jpgTaylor Ackerman, a senior, Honors student from Charlevoix, Michigan, first learned about the hardships endured by refugees while volunteering in Germany when she was 14 years old. She has been passionate about the issue ever since, and as a Marshall Scholarship nominee, Ackerman aims to advance her career in human rights law, especially regarding the rights of forced migrants, by attaining her graduate degree in the United Kingdom.

Ackerman, who is majoring in political science, aims to become a human rights and refugee lawyer. If she is a Marshall Scholarship recipient, Ackerman intends to enroll in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and Human Rights Studies at the University of Oxford and the University of Essex, respectively. 

"I would like to use law to protect the human rights of vulnerable populations, such as refugees and other forced migrants," Ackerman said. "I would also be eager to work in the Victims Unit of the International Criminal Court, or to work in transitional justice processes with a focus on the survivors of human rights violations and atrocities."

With years of international experience under her belt – she has lived in Germany, Singapore, and Korea, and studied abroad three times in the Hague, Netherlands - Ackerman has developed an understanding of issues concerning human rights.

Upon returning to Central Michigan University, Ackerman saw a need to improve the rights of refugees through human rights activism, but found no existing student organizations. In turn, Ackerman is the president and founder of the CMU Chapter of Amnesty International, and is the former Activism and Awareness Chair. She serves as the vice president of Students Against Slavery, and the vice president, former secretary, and former Student Government Association Representative of the International Criminal Court Student Network at CMU. Ackerman is also a senator in the Student Government Association, the secretary of the Society of United Nations, a Sexual Aggression Peer Advocate, and the law school preparation chair of Phi Alpha Delta. 

 

Alyssa Shepard: Biochemistry

2015-0786-006  Alyssa Shepard.jpgAlyssa Shepard, a Holland senior, Honors student, majoring in biochemistry and music, hopes to one day find a cure for cancer. If awarded a Marshall Scholarship, Shepard plans to pursue a DPhil (the Oxford equivalent of a PhD) at the University of Oxford in biochemistry so that she can do just that.

Oxford is regarded as a top university in scientific inquiry and research, and it is one of the 13 locations supported by Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the largest independent cancer research charity worldwide. Knowing that cancer research benefits from cooperation between laboratories, one of Shepard's career goals is to establish important connections between researchers in the United States and the United Kingdom.

If named a Marshall Scholar, it will not be Shepard's first time across the pond. She studied abroad at the University of Stirling in Scotland in the summer of 2014, and in the U.K. during the spring of 2015, traveling from Edinburgh to Scotland and concluding in London. 

Shepard has been active in both research and leadership. At CMU, she has been working with Dr. Michelle Steinhilb, studying Alzheimer's disease. In the summer of 2015, Shepard worked as a cancer research intern at the Van Andel Research Institute. Shepard is the Editor-in-chief at the Honors Platform, a student-run academic journal. She is currently the president of two organizations, the Honors Program Philanthropic Society, and the CMU chapter of the American Chemical Society. In addition, Shepard is a peer advisor for the Office of Study Abroad, and a volunteer for Great Explorations in Math and Science, a weekend program involving elementary school students.

After completing a doctorate, Shepard plans to complete a post-doctoral position in the United States, conducting research at an institution that does not already have an established relationship with a U.K. university. In this way, Shepard hopes to bridge that gap and create international research collaborations, furthering the body of knowledge surrounding cancer research.