Students Recognized for Outstanding Research

By: Graduate Studies on

This spring, eight exceptional doctoral students were recognized by their colleges for excellence in the quality and contribution of their dissertations. From among these select few, one student received the University Award for the Outstanding Dissertation.

The University Award for Outstanding Dissertation was presented to Yuanwei Zhang, PhD from the College of Sciences.

Dr. Zhang, a graduate of the Department of Chemistry was awarded the Outstanding Dissertation for Squaraine Dyes, Design and Synthesis for Various Functional Materials Applications.

Dr. Zhang demonstrated his intelligence, resourcefulness, and productivity throughout his dissertation research as a doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry. He is an accomplished small molecule and polymer synthetic chemist with substantial experience and aptitude in numerous physical characterization techniques. Throughout his student career, Yuanwei easily grasped concepts and required little guidance as he “identified a number of new directions to explore” in which he was highly successful. His dissertation research focused on the modulation of optical properties of materials through supramolecular assembly, resulting in enhancements in his field and publications and significant contributions to papers in leading journals, such as Langmuir, Biomaterials, Biomedical Optic Express, and ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

The following students received the award within their college and were consequently nominated for the university awards.

College of Engineering and Computer Science

Cuncong Zhong, PhD, is a graduate of the Computer Science program. His dissertation, Computational Methods for Comparative Non-coding RNA Analysis: From Structural Motif Identification to Genome-wide Functional Classification, describes a series of new algorithms and pipelines to align and classify the non-coding RNA structures, potentially leading to new bioengineering technology and disease therapies. From his dissertation, he has published eight journal papers, including a cover page story by the world renowned journal, Nucleic Acids Research. Dr. Zhong is now a postdoctoral fellow at the J. Craig Venter Institute.

College of Education

Jesse Fox, PhD, addressed a significant gap in counseling literature with his dissertation, The Development of the Counselor Intuition Scale, which studies how intuition is defined, utilized, and measured. He meticulously created a video-based measure titled the Counselor Intuition Scale (CIS) that will help identify the level of expertise of current clinicians and assist in the training of future clinicians.

College of Health and Public Affairs

Sana Khosa, PhD. is an award-winning recent graduate of the Public Affairs program with a focus on collaborative and multi-layered disaster response. Her dissertation, Examining Multi-level and Inter-organizational Collaborative Response to Disasters: The Case of Pakistan Floods in 2010, investigates the problem of building cooperation among public and nonprofit organizations to achieve public service goals.

College of Medicine

Alejandra Petrilli Guinart, PhD, in Biomedical Sciences, is the recipient of a Young Investigator Award from the Children’s Tumor Foundation, an honor typically reserved for post-doctoral fellows. Her dissertation, Target Validation for Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2) Therapeutics, validated new therapeutic targets with potential to develop new treatments, and resulted in two first author papers in high impact cancer journals.

College of Nursing

Dr. Jacqueline Burton LaManna’s dissertation, Early and Intermediate Hospital-to-Home Transition Outcomes of Older Adults Diagnosed with Diabetes, is a quantitative/qualitative mixed methods study which examines the hospital-to-home transition experiences of older adults diagnosed with diabetes and contributes to the literature on evolving patient care needs. 

Modeling and Simulation

Lillian Campbell-Wynn, PhD, saves lives with the research that comprises her dissertation, Understanding the Capabilities and Limitations of Advanced Interactive M&S: A Cricothyroidotomy Simulation Case Study. Her research improves medical training in the armed forces worldwide by addressing loss of airway, the third-leading cause of preventable death on the battlefield, and has been accepted for publication in Military Medicine the oldest and most prestigious journal in the field.

Rosen College of Hospitality Management

Xu Li, PhD, informs our understanding of the evolving world of social media in her dissertation, Consumer Engagement in Travel-related Social Media. As social media transforms the business industry, new theories are needed to understand consumer behavior, and Dr. Li has contributed to the development of such a theory. She is currently an assistant professor at Texas Tech University.

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