Top U.Va. Graduate Students Earn Awards for Excellence in Scholarship

By Melissa Maki

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies announces the 2007 recipients of its awards for excellence in scholarship. The fellowships are available to advanced doctoral candidates in the sciences, engineering, humanities, and social sciences who have earned distinction in their respective fields and have brought recognition to U.Va.’s graduate programs as a result of their intellect, hard work, creativity, and passion. 

This year’s fellowship winners have some extraordinary scholarly accomplishments, including: attracting accolades from the National Science Foundation and National Aeronautic and Space Administration; presenting research at national and international conferences; being invited to speak at major conferences; and having work featured in highly esteemed national and international publications such as the Journal of American History and Organised Sound.  In addition, Erwin Gianchandani’s research was not only published in a respected journal--PloS Computational Biology--but was featured on its cover. Likewise, Greg Riddick’s research was highlighted on the cover of the Journal of Cell Biology.

Elizabeth Fenton, doctoral candidate in philosophy and fellowship awardee, focuses on the theme of human rights in bioethics.  Fenton has already had three papers published in top bioethics journals, including the Hastings Center Report, Bioethics, and the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy.  “For a graduate student to place papers in all three of these excellent journals before she has done substantial work on her dissertation is quite an amazing feat,” says John D. Arras, professor of bioethics and philosophy, and Fenton’s mentor and advisor.  “We can, in short, expect great things from this outstanding and already highly accomplished graduate student.”  Fenton will use the fellowship to fund research and writing time over the summer and for conference travel in the next academic year. 

Michael Nelson, a Ph.D. student in neuroscience and fellowship recipient, is conducting research that shows great promise for the development of new pharmacotherapies to treat unresponsive pain.  Nelson has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience and has received a National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health.  Nelson’s mentor, Slobodan Todorovic, associate professor of anesthesiology and neuroscience, notes that Nelson’s work has already made a big impact in his field.  “I believe that his most valuable trait that puts him above the rest is his enormous level of energy and passion for science,” says Todorovic.  “Indeed, he went a step ahead of what we normally expect from graduate students.”   Nelson will use the fellowship funding for travel purposes, such as attending and presenting at scientific meetings, and visiting labs to evaluate postdoctoral opportunities.


Award for Excellence in Scholarship in the Sciences and Engineering fellows:

  • Ricardo Muñoz, astronomy
  • Greg Riddick, biochemistry, molecular biology & genetics
  • Erwin Gianchandani, biomedical engineering
  • Drake Guenther, biomedical engineering
  • Scott Bingham, computer engineering
  • Ryan Emanuel, environmental sciences
  • Sujith Ravi, environmental sciences
  • Elodie Leveugle, materials science & engineering
  • Patrick Hopkins, mechanical & aerospace engineering
  • Jason Kerrigan, mechanical & aerospace engineering
  • Catherine Christian, neuroscience
  • Michael Nelson, neuroscience
  • Jane Mendle, psychology
  • Justin Storbeck, psychology

Award for Excellence in Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences fellows:

  • Michael Meere, French
  • Robert Jackson, history
  • Chris Loss, history
  • Juraj Kojs, music
  • Elizabeth Fenton, philosophy
  • Ryan Pevnick, politics
  • Jeffrey Vogel, religious studies
  • Irene Gómez Castellano, Spanish