Three UNL students earned Presidential Graduate Fellowships from the University of Nebraska for the 2014-2015 academic year.
The fellowships honor a select group of NU graduate students on the basis of high scholastic performance and personal accomplishment. Fellows receive a stipend from the University of Nebraska Foundation to pursue studies full-time.
The three graduate fellows from UNL are: Danielle Haak, natural resources; Jonathon Sikorski, educational psychology; and Trisha Spanbauer, earth and atmospheric sciences.
Seven of the fellowships were awarded to graduate students in the NU system for the 2014-2015 academic year. Along with the three from UNL, two students each from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska Medical Center earned the awards.
“The students who are honored with Presidential Graduate Fellows are among the University of Nebraska’s best and brightest,” said James Linder, NU’s interim president. “We are very fortunate to enjoy a level of private support that allows us to recognize these scholars and give them an opportunity to devote themselves fully to their academic pursuits. While still in school, these students have already made important contributions to their scholarly fields. I’m certain we will continue to see great things from them.”
Haak’s research interests include ecological resilience, biodiversity, aquatic invasive species and organism energetics. She has spent significant time studying the Chinese mystery snail in order to understand the ecological or economic harm an organism can cause in a new environment where it is not native. In the last 18 months, Haak has published five peer-reviewed articles and participated in UNL’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program, which took her on a 10-week international trip where she collaborated with scientists from Austria, Hungary, France and Poland.
Haak is currently participating in the Young Scientists Summer Program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, researching how humans influence species movement and energetics in southeastern Nebraska’s Salt Valley reservoirs. Through her dissertation research, Haak hopes to identify problem species and compare management actions across countries to develop innovative solutions that impact the field of invasion ecology.
Sikorski’s dissertation will examine educators’ use of data to monitor student learning. He will look specifically at how to adequately measure teachers’ ability to collect, analyze and apply that data in the classroom. This is an essential contribution to national efforts to use data to strengthen schools’ accountability. Sikorski holds multiple leadership positions at UNL and nationally that include being a student mentor for his department, student liaison for the Academic Program Review, and chair of the National Association of School Psychologists Student Development Workgroup. He has co-authored four journal articles, four book chapters and participated in 15 presentations at regional and national conferences.
Sikorski’s long-term goal is to pursue a faculty position at an R1 university that would allow him to teach, research and collaborate with others.
Spanbauer followed a non-traditional path to her study in natural sciences. As an undergraduate she majored in art and worked in the non-profit sector for several years following her undergraduate education. She decided to change career paths to pursue earth sciences by taking multiple courses and volunteering in research laboratories, all while holding down a full-time job.
Spanbauer’s research is at the intersection of micropaleontology and evolutionary biology and centers on understanding the evolution and diversity of microscopic species of freshwater algae. She is a member of UNL’s IGERT program and has substantial experience in community outreach involving the education of different audiences about environmental science.
Other NU graduate students earning the 2014-2015 fellowships are: Elizabeth Heinrichs-Graham, psychology, UNO; Meg Marquardt, English, UNO; Duy Minh, cellular and integrative physiology, UNMC; and Phillip Purnell, pharmacology and experimental neuroscience, UNMC.
For more information on the awards, click here.