Category: Graduate Student

Rashi Yadav, Biological Sciences Graduate Student Spotlight

Rashi Yadav is a final year PhD candidate in Department of Biological Sciences working on L2-based virus-like particles (VLPs) against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and also, production of thermostable VLP platform. In addition to research, she has taught Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Environmental Microbiology and General Biology as a Graduate Teaching Assistant.

Rashi presenting

HPVs are associated with 90% of cervical cancer and 25% of oral cancer. Infected individuals clear the infection within two years, however persistent infection can lead to cancer and genital warts. Fortunately, there are two L1- based prophylactic vaccine against HPVs that offers protection against 7 cancer causing HPV types (high-risk HPVs) and 2 low risk HPV types that can cause cutaneous and genital warts. However, there are 19 cancer causing HPV types and current vaccine offer limited cross protection. The outer shell (capsid) of HPV is made of two proteins- major capsid protein (L1) that is not conserved and minor capsid protein (L2), on the contrary, is conserved among different types of HPVs. Rashi’s research is focused on assessing the ability of L2-based VLPs against different types of high-risk and low-risk HPV types. Overall, L2-based VLPs can protect against 12 oncogenic HPV types causing cervical and oral cancer in addition to protection against HPV 5 that causes Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis. Rashi’s second project is on development of novel thermostable VLP platform that can be exploited to expose antigens on the surface against cancer or virus as vaccine.

Rashi working in the Covid-19 diagnostic lab.

Rashi won the first prize in 3 Minute Thesis organized by Health Research Slam where students from various departments participated and was awarded a check of $300. The topic of her presentation was “”Oral immunization with bacteriophage MS2-L2 VLPs protects against oral infection with multiple HPV types associated with head and neck cancers ”

Rashi is also working in MTU Covid-19 diagnostic lab. She is one of the few students who joined the lab and helped set up the lab including training and supervising students in RNA extraction of samples. She also prepares viral transport media which is exported to number of health facilities around the city to obtain samples for testing.


Students Earn Honorable Mention in 2020 Virtual Michigan Physiological Society Annual Conference

The first ever Michigan Physiological Society Virtual Conference just wrapped up! It was a great collection of speakers with impressive work. Several of our students and faculty participated, including two students from Dr. John J. Durocher’s research group that earned awards for their presentations!

Thomas Basala (Undergraduate Student, Biological Sciences) earned an honorable mention for his presentation: “Applied Human Physiology Fitness Trail Project: Benefits for Local Residents and Undergraduate Students.”

Aditi Vyas (PhD Student, Biological Sciences) also earned an honorable mention for her presentation: “Effects of 8-Week Active Mindfulness and Stress Management on Anxiety and Mental Health During the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

Congratulations, Thomas and Aditi!

Zoom meeting screenshot of participants.

Thomas Basala research poster

Aditi Vyas research poster

Call for Applications: Songer Research Award for Human Health Research 2020-21

Matthew Songer, (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) have generously donated funds to the College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) to support a research project competition for undergraduate and graduate students.

Remembering their own eagerness to engage in research during their undergraduate years, the Songers established these awards to stimulate and encourage opportunities for original research by current Michigan Tech students. The College is extremely grateful for the Songers’ continuing interest in, and support of, Michigan Tech’s programs in human health and medicine.

This is the third year of the competition. Students may propose an innovative medically-oriented research project in any area of human health. The best projects will demonstrate the potential to have broad impact on improving human life. This research will be pursued in consultation with faculty members within the College of Sciences and Arts. Awarded in the Spring of 2020, the Songers’ gift will support one award for undergraduate research ($4,000) and a second award for graduate research ($6,000). Matching funds from the College may allow two additional awards. The research will be conducted over the Summer of 2020 and/or the following academic year.

Any Michigan Tech student interested in exploring a medically related question under the guidance of faculty in the College of Sciences and Arts may apply. Students majoring in any degree program in the college, including both traditional (i.e., biological sciences, kinesiology, chemistry) and nontraditional (i.e., physics, psychology, social science, bioethics, computer science, mathematics) programs related to human health may propose research projects connected to human health. Students are encouraged to propose original, stand-alone projects with expected durations of 6 – 12 months. The committee also encourages applications from CSA students who seek to continue research projects initiated through other campus mechanisms, such as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, Pavlis Honors College activities or the Graduate Research Forum (GRF).

Funds from a Songer Award may be used to purchase or acquire research materials and equipment needed to perform the proposed research project. Access to and research time utilizing University core research facilities, including computing, may be supported. Requests to acquire a personal computer will be scrutinized and must be fully justified. Page charges for publications also may be covered with award funds, as will travel to appropriate academic meetings. This award may not be used for salary or compensation for the student or consulting faculty.

To apply:

  • Students should prepare a research project statement (up to five pages in length) that describes the background, methods to be used, and research objectives. The statement also should provide a detailed description of the experiments planned and expected outcomes. Students must indicate where they will carry out their project and attach a separate list of references/citations to relevant scientific literature.
  • The application package also should provide a concise title and brief summary (1 page) written for lay audiences.
  • A separate budget page should indicate how funds will be used.
  • A short letter from a consulting faculty member must verify that the student defined an original project and was the primary author of the proposal. The faculty member should also confirm her/his willingness to oversee the project. This faculty letter is not intended to serve as a recommendation on behalf of the student’s project.

Submit applications as a single PDF file to the Office of the College of Sciences and Arts by 4 p.m. Monday, March 30. Applications may be emailed to djhemmer@mtu.edu.


Graduate School Announces Fall 2018 Award Recipients

We are happy to announce Yogesh Kumar Ahlawat (Biological Sciences), Rashmi Adhikari (BMB), and Roba Bdeir (BMB) are among the winners for the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Award. Congratulations!

Finishing Fellowships provide support to PhD candidates who are close to completing their degrees. These fellowships are available through the generosity of alumni and friends of the University. They are intended to recognize outstanding PhD candidates who are in need of financial support to finish their degrees and are also contributing to the attainment of goals outlined in The Michigan Tech Plan.


6th Annual Michigan Physiological Society Meeting

Ten graduate students, seven undergraduate students, four faculty members, and two recent alumni from Michigan Tech recently participated in the 6th annual Michigan Physiological Society Meeting held on the campus of Central Michigan University on June 27-28.

John Durocher (BIO) served as the president of the society and Ian Greenlund (KIP) served as the trainee committee chair. Four MTU graduate students completed oral presentations, with Jeremy Bigalke (KIP) winning one of the top oral presentation awards.

Another thirteen MTU students were active in poster presentations, with Sarah LewAllen (BIO) winning one of the top poster presentation awards. Finally, two graduate students served as moderators for oral presentations.
In conjunction with the annual meeting, the 3rd annual Michigan Physiology Quiz competition was held. Michigan Tech competed against six other teams from around the state. Team members included Jana Hendrickson (KIP), Sarah LewAllen (BIO), Jill Poliskey (BIO), and Colleen Toorongian (KIP).

The Michigan Tech team was very competitive through four rounds but missed making the final round between the top three teams by a single question. All team members did a great job with the intense questions.

Michigan Tech was one of only three universities from around the state to achieve Diamond-Level Sponsorship! This was possible thanks to the College of Sciences and Arts, Michigan Tech Graduate School, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, and Department of Biological Sciences. Additional faculty and staff members from Michigan Tech also made individual awards that contributed to the cash prizes for the quiz competition, oral presentations, and poster presentations.


Michigan Space Grant Consortium Award Recipients Announced

K NevorskiBiology student Kevin Nevorski received $5,000 in funding through the Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC), sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the 2017-18 funding cycle. Nevorski worked with Amy Marcarelli on this project, “Nitrogen in Space: An Examination of How Nitrogen Cycle Processes are Related in Streams and How Those Processes are Influenced at Multiple Special Scales”. Kevin earned his MS and BS from Central Michigan University before joining the Marcarelli lab in 2016 as a PhD student as part of the NSF CAREER project.

NASA implemented the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program in 1989 to provide funding for research, education and public outreach in space-related science and technology. The program has 52 university-based consortia in the United States and Puerto Rico.

As an affiliate of the Michigan Consortium, Michigan Tech has been an active participant in MSGC for approximately 20 years. MSGC funding is administered through Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College.

For more information, contact Paige Hackney in the Pavlis Honors College at 7-4371 or visit the MSGC website.


Applications for summer 2017 Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantships

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 8.39.25 AMApplications for summer 2017 Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantships are being accepted and are due no later than 4 p.m. Feb. 14 to Debra Charlesworth in the Graduate School. Instructions on the application and evaluation process are online.

Students are eligible if all of the following criteria are met:

  • Must be a PhD student participating in health-related research that is aligned with the PHF’s mission
  • Must be eligible for or in Research Mode at the time of application
  • It must be two years after starting the graduate program at the time of application
  • Must not have previously received a PHF Graduate Assistantship

Priority will be given to students originally from Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga or Ontonagon counties. Non-resident students and international students are encouraged to apply if their health research is applicable to health needs and job shortages of our local community (obesity research, rural health, medical informatics, drug delivery and lab testing, physical therapy, etc.).

These assistantships are available through the generosity of the Portage Health Foundation. They are intended to recognize outstanding PhD talent in health-oriented research areas. Applicants should be catalysts for promoting and improving the overall health of residents in Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga and Ontonagon counties through one of the following:

  • Health research and technology development
  • Health education or preventive and wellness initiatives
  • Rural healthcare access, informatics and assessment of care

Students who receive full support through a PHF Graduate Assistantship may not accept any other employment. For example, students cannot be fully supported by a PHF Graduate Assistantship and accept support as a GTA or GRA.


Robert Larson awarded AAS-Lundbeck Research Fellowship


Robert-LarsonRobert Larson
, PhD student in Biological Sciences, has been awarded the 2016  AAS-Lundbeck Research Fellowship as announced on their website.   His research is titled ” Targeting Cardiac Sympathetic and Renin Angiotensin Systems with Ang-(1-7) in Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy” which will be completed in the Department of Internal Medicine at The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine with Dr. Mark Chapleau.

The Summary of his research:

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a relatively common inherited disease characterized by cardiac hypertrophy (enlarged heart), fibrosis, and dysfunction. Patients with HCM exhibit abnormal neural reflex control of blood pressure and heart rate, and are at high risk of developing heart failure, arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. Current treatment strategies primarily target symptoms and not development of the disease. We propose a novel treatment strategy with Angiotensin-(1-7), a peptide known to diminish sympathetic nerve activity and the pro-fibrotic and pro-hypertrophic actions of angiotensin II. We hypothesize that a combination of sustained inhibition of cardiac sympathetic activity and inhibition of adverse cardiac actions of angiotensin II will act synergistically to prevent or reverse cardiac fibrosis, hypertrophy and arrhythmias in HCM. We will test this hypothesis using an established mouse model of HCM, in which a human mutation is targeted selectively to the heart.

Robert will be completing his degree under Kineseology and Integrative Physiology Adjunct Professor Qing-Hui Chen this summer.

Congratulations from Biological Sciences!


Rupsa Basu takes awards in 3 minute thesis competition

BasuFrom Tech Today

The Graduate Student Government and the Grad School would like to congratulate the following winners of the 2016 Three Minute Thesis Competition held last Thursday:

Masters Divison:
First Place, $500- Ekramul Ehite (ME-EM)
Runner Up, $250- Abhilash Kantamneni (CS)
People’s Choice, $100- Abhilash Kantamneni (CS)

PhD Division:
First Place, $500- Rupsa Basu (Biology)
Runner Up, $250- Zichen Qian (Bio Med)
People’s Choice, $100- Rupsa Basu (Biology)