All Articles

2024-2025 Brown Graduate Fellowship Cohort Announced

Iowa State University Students Receive $70,000 in Institutional Funding

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

Posted Mar 5, 2024

Seven Iowa State University graduate students have been selected to receive $70,000 in Brown Graduate Fellowship Program funding in support of 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. These research emphases 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 program was especially competitive, with seven out of 15 accomplished applicants selected to receive award funding by a committee composed of research faculty from across campus. Evaluation and selection of recipients for the 2024-2025 awards was based on nomination letters provided by candidates’ respective director of graduate education (DOGE).

“For more than a decade, the Brown Graduate Fellowship program has supported the creative vision and innovation of the next generation of researchers at Iowa State University,” said Vice President for Research Peter Dorhout. “We’re immensely grateful for the continuing support of the Valentine Hammes Family and Leopold Hammes Brown Family Trust and their contributions in helping us achieve our aspiration to be the nation’s most student-centric leading research university.”

2024-2025 Brown Graduate Fellowship Program Recipients

Recipient: Rebecca Ying

Degree Program: Psychology, Ph.D.

Nominated by: Christian A. Meissner — professor of Psychology

Rebecca Ying

Meissner: “Rebecca’s research focuses on the application of theoretical models of cognitive processes involved in memory, judgment, and decision-making. The primary context in which she examines these processes is the interface of psychology and the legal system, and her research has the unique potential to influence policies and procedures that affect people’s lives – aligning with ISU’s land-grant mission. To date, Rebecca has eight peer-reviewed publications, 11 manuscripts in progress, and 18 conference presentations. Rebecca is also a true leader among her peers. She has served as the Cognitive Psychology student representative for the past two years and is currently the graduate student representative for the Department’s Graduate Program Committee. She has led important efforts to provide insight into graduate student experiences and is a tireless champion for her colleagues. In addition to being incredibly intelligent and having an outstanding work ethic, Rebecca possesses the necessary soft skills required to manage a successful laboratory, mentor students, and contribute to the service mission of an institution. She has a brilliant future ahead.”

Recipient: John Beck

Degree Program: Biochemistry, Ph.D.

Nominated by: Scott Nelson — associate professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology

John Beck

Nelson: “John is an innovative and productive Biochemistry graduate student who is making major strides in our understanding of how the deadly Malaria parasite interacts with its host to cause disease. He has already published three papers and is currently preparing four additional manuscripts. He is innovative in the face of difficult scientific challenges. As a result, John is often treated more like a postdoc than a graduate student since he needs little oversight and is full of excellent ideas of his own. It has been a real delight to watch John develop in the Biochemistry graduate program. He is on a stellar trajectory with extraordinary potential for a high-impact biomedical research career.”

Recipient: Josiah Rensner

Degree Program: Chemistry, Ph.D.

Nominated by: Yan Zhao — professor of Chemistry

Josiah Rensner

Zhao: “[Josiah] is integral to advancing research at Iowa State University within the broader field of study in chemistry. During the last three years at Iowa State, he published three scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals (including two as the first author), made two oral and three poster presentations in international and national conferences, and was involved in a patent application. He mentored two undergraduate students, one high school intern, and one high school teacher. He [has] worked on two major research projects so far. I am convinced he will be an outstanding teacher-scholar who will greatly contribute to our society.”

Recipient: Manish Kumar

Degree Program: Materials Science and Engineering, Ph.D.

Nominated by: Ralph Napolitano — professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Manish Kumar

Napolitano: “Manish has performed admirably. He has given numerous technical presentations on his Ph.D. work at the American Society of Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR), International Space Station Research and Development (ISSRDC), Von Brown Symposium, and the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society (TMS) conferences, which demonstrate his excellent communication skills.In addition to his Ph.D. project, Manish has served as a mentor for three undergraduate senior design teams. He has also trained and mentored four graduate students and five undergraduates with respect to various aspects of research activities, underlining his commitment to developing the next generation of scientists. These experiences collectively demonstrate his capacity to lead, educate, and manage in a complex scientific setting.”

Recipient: Samuel Duncanson

Degree Program: Geology, Ph.D.

Nominated by: Elizabeth Swanner — associate professor of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences

Samuel Duncanson

Swanner: “[Samuel’s] research addresses past periods of climate change and will help to understand the global regulation of a critical biological nutrient: nitrogen. [His] work is integral to advancing research at Iowa State within his field of study because he has a unique combination of skillsets that are not well represented on our campus. He can use geology, geochemistry, and a close study of minerals to understand nutrient cycles, soil development, and connections between Earth history and modern environmental change. He has already published one first-authored article based on his M.S. work in American Mineralogist and is currently preparing two first-author manuscripts. Beyond his research acumen, Sam has been an outstanding and valuable member of our department’s teaching mission.”

Recipient: Amir Ramezani

Degree Program: Civil Engineering, Future Ph.D.

Nominated by: Behrouz Shafei — associate professor of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering

Shafei: “[Amir] has established a strong track record of research activities. [His] research focus at ISU will be unique and interdisciplinary, with the ultimate goal of benefiting from agricultural waste products to improve sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint of cementitious materials. Capitalizing on his excellent academic records, Amir will work to identify, refine, and utilize agricultural waste products capable of storing a high amount of carbon dioxide through an active process known as accelerated carbonation. Among his awards, [he] has been able to secure the second rank in “Concrete Solutions” and “Eco Concrete” competitions hosted by the American Concrete Institute (ACI). [Amir’s] research is considered integral to advancing research within his graduate program, as it will introduce a new area of transformative research at the cross-section of agricultural waste products, additive manufacturing, and civil materials engineering.”

Recipient: Rachel Siller

Degree Program: Wildlife Ecology, Ph.D.

Nominated by: Julie Blanchong — associate professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management

Rachel Siller

Blanchong: “Rachel is a bright student with an academic record to match. Her dissertation research is broadly centered on avian population ecology with an emphasis on movement ecology and population modeling. Rachel’s work is both novel and innovative within the field of avian ecology with an emphasis on solution science that can support societal conservation priorities for migratory birds. Besides research, Rachel contributes to the department through her activities with the NREM Graduate Student Organization. Last year, she was both the co-chair for the weekly graduate student-run departmental seminar committee and an editor for the annual graduate student magazine, Field Notes. Rachel is a bright young scientist in the field of avian ecology, and I have no doubt she will make impactful and lasting contributions with her dissertation research, especially in the areas of movement ecology and the application of integrated population models to advance conservation priorities for birds.”