Spectacular student research

research-glassCreating new knowledge about the subatomic world. Shedding light on how stress alters the response to stimulants. Discovering evidence that cities can spawn thunderstorms. Revealing the risks of traffic-generated air pollution.

Faculty at any university would be proud of creating such diverse and impactful research. Amazingly, however, this is the work of NIU students in physics, psychology, geography and public health who are winners of the Graduate Council best thesis and dissertation awards for the 2014-15 academic year.

“The quality of this research really speaks to the quality of our students and their education,” said Bradley Bond, Dean of the NIU Graduate School. “It’s exciting to see NIU students take what they learn in the classroom and from their faculty mentors, expand upon that knowledge and make significant contributions of their own to science and society.”

Stephen Cole
Stephen Cole

The Outstanding Dissertation Award and a prize of $750 prize went to Dr. Stephen Cole from the Department of Physics for his analyses of subatomic proton-proton collisions at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland.

The first analysis focused on WZ boson signatures in subatomic proton-proton collisions. In a second analysis, he worked with a colleague to pioneer and verify techniques used to combine the systematic uncertainties from two different experiments at the collider.

“Dr. Cole has brought great credit to NIU,” said his adviser, Professor Gerald Blazey, who is also the university’s Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships.

“Stephen wrote an extremely strong thesis on two important electroweak measurements,” Blazey said. “His work directly appears in two highly cited publications, has and will contribute to numerous other papers, and has been noted and presented on the international stage.”

Additionally, three $500 prizes for the Outstanding Thesis Award went to:

  • Eden Anderson from the Department of Psychology for a project examining the interaction of stress and methamphetamine in female rodents.“The thesis project was quite sophisticated for a master’s project and required that Ms. Anderson become proficient in rodent behaviors, surgeries and neurochemistry to measure the brain level of the chemical dopamine,” said Professor Leslie Matuszewich, chair of Anderson’s master’s committee. “Her master’s thesis is the first to examine the interaction of stress and stimulant in females and provides novel and critical data for the field.”
  • Alex Haberlie from the Department of Geography for his research focusing on the connection between thunderstorm initiations and sprawling urban communities. In addition to being published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, his work received substantial media attention.The results present the first evidence that urban areas initiate thunderstorms more often than the surrounding rural areas on a climatological time scale,” said Professor Walker Ashley, Haberlie’s graduate adviser. “He also was the first to characterize the climatological spatial distribution of thunderstorm initiation around a large urban area in different wind patterns, times of the day and days of the week.”
  • Disa Patel with her adviser, Professor Tomoyuki Shibata
    Disa Patel with her adviser, Professor Tomoyuki Shibata

    And, Disa Patel from the School of Nursing and Health Studies (Public Health) for her assessments of traffic-related particulate matter exposures and individual intervention efforts in Indonesia. Acute respiratory infections and pneumonia are the leading causes of death in children under the age of 5 in that country.

    “She provided a scientific basis for potential interventions that reduce the public’s exposure to air pollutants, and these findings can be generalized to other low and lower-middle-income countries that face similar air quality issues,” said her thesis director, Professor Tomoyuki Shibata.

The students will be honored at a reception in Altgeld Hall on April 19, 2016.

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