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2021-2022 Brown Graduate Fellowships Awarded

By Caitlin Ware, Iowa State University Office of the Vice President for Research

Posted Feb 15, 2021

Fourteen Iowa State University students have been selected to receive $140,000 in Brown Graduate Fellowship Program funding to support strategic university research over the next year.

Established in 2011 and administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), the annual Brown Graduate Fellowship Program is used to advance Iowa State research in the areas of study covered by the Valentine Hammes Family and Leopold Hammes Brown Family Trust, which include science, agriculture, and space science. Each year, an internal review committee selects a group of Ph.D. or master’s degree students from across the university to receive $10,000 each in institutional funding, which can be used to enhance existing fellowships, partially fund a fellowship, or assist with recruitment of new graduate students.

This year’s award winners were selected by a committee composed of central research administrators from across campus. Selection for the 2021-2022 awards was based on nomination letters provided by candidates’ respective director of graduate education (DOGE).

“Brown Graduate Fellowship recipients embody the very best of the next generation of innovators Iowa State University is committed to developing,” said Vice President for Research Peter Dorhout. “We truly appreciate the Valentine Hammes and Leopold Hammes Brown families and their shared commitment to supporting some of our most exceptional graduate students over the decade the Brown program has been in place.”

2021-2022 Brown Graduate Fellowship Program Recipients

Recipient: Alyssa Hohman
Degree Program: Genetics and Genomics, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Erik Vollbrecht — Professor of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology

Vollbrecht: “Alyssa[‘s] … research focuses on examining molecular and genetic roles of microRNAs in heart health in animals. This work is integral in advancing biosciences research at Iowa State University to better understand heart health in the context of aging and longevity and how genetic factors may impact lifespan and cardiovascular disease.”


Recipient: Jayne Wiarda
Degree Program: Immunobiology, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Douglas Jones — Professor of Veterinary Pathology

Jones: “[Jayne] is an excellent research scientist, even at her early career stages. [She] demonstrates a continued interest in bovine and swine immunology with an emphasis in developing computational skills that interrogate big datasets. Her work will lead to a better understanding of the immune response to disease and changes in the immune response with age.”


Recipient: Yifan Li
Degree Program: Materials Science and Engineering, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Ralph E. Napolitano — Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Napolitano: “Yifan has focused his considerable scientific talents on the investigation of a novel class of materials known as Janus particles, which have great promise for innovative uses as functional coatings and nanomaterials. Exploring such potential applications, his work has directly led to new understanding and technological capabilities, which have helped to establish Iowa State University as a global leader in this promising new area of research.”


Recipient: Peiyu Cao
Degree Program: Environmental Science, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Thomas Isenhart — Professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management

Isenhart: “Peiyu’s research focuses on the assessment of the nitrogen budget within agricultural systems through data synthesis and empirical and process-based modeling. This work has served as a solid basis for crop yield estimation, environmental consequence analysis, and economic assessment, and will benefit a broad community far beyond ecosystem modelers.”


Recipient: Belen Hernandez
Degree Program: Veterinary Pathology, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Jodi Smith — Associate Professor of Veterinary Pathology

Smith: “The focus of Belen’s Ph.D. work is investigating the potential zoonotic (animal to human) transmission of human Clostridium difficile infection from pets. Support of Belen in this work will continue to strengthen our reputation as one of the leading combined Ph.D./residency training programs in the U.S., reinforce our commitment to mentoring students from underrepresented groups in science, and advance ISU research.”


Recipient: Hamidreza Zobeiri
Degree Program: Mechanical Engineering, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Pranav Shrotriya — Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Shrotriya: “Hamidreza is currently … doing research on the science of energy transport in 2D atomic layer materials, including novel probing characterization development, advanced theoretical analysis, and physics interpretation. His research contributions are expected to have a very long and profound impact in micro/nanoscale thermal science.”


Recipient: Thanh Phan
Degree Program: Aerospace Engineering, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Hui Hu — Professor of Aerospace Engineering

Hu: “Thanh has consistently demonstrated academic excellence as well as played an active role in conducting innovative research within the field of aerospace engineering. Thanh has … made a significant impact on our department’s research efforts and community. Since the initiation of his Ph.D., Thanh has authored or coauthored eight journal publications.”


Recipient: Milad Zangiabadi
Degree Program: Organic Chemistry, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Gordon Miller — Professor of Chemistry

Miller: “Milad is integral to advancing research at Iowa State University within his broader field of study in chemistry for two main reasons: he has demonstrated exceptional performance in research and academics and … his research on peptide recognition and synthetic glycosidase is expected to greatly advance several important areas of research including glycobiology and biomass conversion.”


Recipient: Lauren Kueffer
Degree Program: Biochemistry, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Richard Honzatko and Scott Nelson (Co-DOGEs) — Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology and Associate Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology

Honzatko: “Lauren . . . is engaged in the discovery of small molecules that inhibit the function of a critical component of the human immune system called Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK). She is a first-rate contributor to this institution as a recruiter of prospective graduate students, as a mentor of new graduate students, as a teacher of undergraduate students and as a top-notch scientific investigator.”


Recipient: Lauren Haygood
Degree Program: Geology, (Future) Ph.D.
Nominated By: Paul G. Spry — Professor of Geology

Spry: “Lauren is on a fast-track to establish herself as a research scientist through participation in University of Tulsa’s accelerated M.S. program. She has developed new methodologies for separating rare earth elements from sediments and waters for analysis. Lauren has tremendous potential to be productive and successful while at ISU and advance the capabilities of research on this campus, in addition to producing high-quality and impactful research in priority areas.”


Recipient: Daniel Kohlhase
Degree Program: Plant Breeding, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Asheesh K. Singh — Professor of Agronomy

Singh: “Daniel’s long-term goal is to enhance crop production and protection around the world. He is hard working and has demonstrated his ability to leverage traditional research approaches with state-of-the-art technology. His research has already provided valuable tools and insights into herbicide resistance and crop stress adaptations, benefitting farmers across the U.S.”


Recipient: Olivia Diggs
Degree Program: Human Development and Family Studies, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Kere Hughes-Belding — Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Hughes-Belding: “Olivia’s research interests include substance use, adolescence, emerging adulthood, parenting, family dynamics, and economic adversity. Her contributions to the Iowa State University research community, as well as the fields of substance use, adolescent and emerging adult health, and family health are outstanding.”


Recipient: Hannah Loghry
Degree Program: Biomedical Sciences, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Heather Greenlee — Professor of Biomedical Sciences

Greenlee: “The goal of Hannah’s research is to identify new disease control strategies by investigating the potential immunomodulatory capabilities of parasitic extracellular vesicles, which are a membranous structure secreted by cells on both human and mosquito hosts. This not only aids in the advancement of knowledge and skills in our lab ensuring the continuation of important research on the effects of extracellular vesicles into the future, but also extends out to collaborators in different labs, departments, and universities.”


Recipient: Kathryn Bunda
Degree Program: Psychology, Ph.D.
Nominated By: Jonathan Kelly — Professor of Psychology

Kelly: “Kathryn is collecting data regarding cancer, exercise, and identity from a sample of cancer survivors in Iowa. Kathryn’s research will have far-reaching effects by facilitating meaningful health-related changes for both healthy and chronically ill individuals through the development of valid and reliable interventions. Such interventions would contribute to lowering health care costs and improving many people’s quality of life.”