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Top-notch student research

November 7, 2014
Kirthi Kutumbaka

Kirthi Kutumbaka

Students in biological sciences and psychology have won the NIU Graduate Council best thesis and dissertation awards for the 2013-14 academic year.

The Outstanding Dissertation Award, along with a $750 prize, went to Kirthi Kutumbaka from the Department of Biological Sciences.

Kutumbaka’ s dissertation research took place under the direction of Professor R. Meganathan and focused on identifying enzymes that synthesize Coenzyme Q under anaerobic conditions. Kutumbaka has two papers published on this work, including a first-author article.

Kutumbaka received a number of awards during his time as a graduate student, including the GEN10 Award for Excellence in Scientific Research, which is a national award presented by Genetic Engineering News. He is currently employed as a staff scientist for a biotechnology company in Seattle.

Kathleen McCraw

Kathleen McCraw

The Outstanding Thesis Award, along with a $500 prize and entry into the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools thesis competition, went to Kathleen McCraw from the Department of Psychology.

McCraw recognized that research on specific phobias was limited because there was no measure that could be used with different objects or situations.

The use of different measures for different situations meant that researchers could not examine whether fears have different causes or consequences. Under the direction of professor David Valentiner, McCraw embarked on developing a psychometrically-sound measure that could be used with any object or situation. She currently has a research paper on the topic in press with the top psychological assessment journal, Psychology Assessment.

“I expect this paper to be highly cited and her new measure to have a lasting impact on our field,” Valentiner says.

McCraw is currently a research assistant and doctoral student in the psychology department.