Graduate School Awards Reception Showcases Faculty, Student Achievements

By Nathan Tidwell

Sean Taverna, Ph.D., presided over his first official event as Graduate School dean since succeeding Robert E. McGehee, Jr., Ph.D., on Nov. 1. McGehee had served as dean since 2004.

“It’s great to see this kind of thing happen,” Taverna said at the event held at Biomedical Research Center I’s Helen Guinn Adams Atrium. “It’s important to celebrate everyone’s outstanding achievements. Graduate school is a rewarding but difficult time. It takes a lot of hard work, and we have to appreciate that.”

Hayley Sabol and Ravi Sun received Outstanding Achievement Awards. Sabol and Sun have been selected for a Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (NRSA) through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Kirschstein-NRSA program gives promising doctoral students the opportunity to obtain mentored training while conducting research on their dissertation.

Sean Taverna and Hayley Sabol

Dr. Taverna presents Hayley Sabol with an Outstanding Achievement Award.Image by Evan Lewis.

Sabol, who is on the Graduate Program in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences (GPIBS) – Cell Biology and Physiology track, was awarded a National Cancer Institute grant through NIH in June to study multiple myeloma.

“The awards are really exciting,” said Sabol. “The grant I received was a big deal.”

Sun is in the M.D./Ph.D. program and received a National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute grant in August to study vascular abnormalities that can cause morbidity in children.

“I’m ecstatic,” Sun said. “The grant was a culmination of mine and my mentor’s work.”

Sabol was also recognized with an Achievement Award for her 2023 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Harold M. Frost Young Investigator Award, and was noted for her first-place finish in Outstanding Cancer Research at UAMS’ Student Research Day in March.

The Excellence in Mentoring Awards went to Jesus Delgado-Calle, Ph.D., and Graham Strub, M.D., Ph.D.

Gautam Plaque

A memorial plaque for former UAMS graduate student Bikram Gautam.Image by Evan Lewis

Delgado-Calle, an associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, is Sabol’s mentor.

“She’s a perfect student, I couldn’t ask for anything else,” said Delgado-Calle. “We’re already proud and hope to see more things from her.”

Strub, who mentors Sun, is an associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and director of the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute Vascular Anomalies Laboratory.

“I am honored to receive this award for mentoring Ravi during his Ph.D. training,” said Strub. “Ravi has been an ideal mentee, given his natural curiosity, fierce commitment and meticulous attention to detail. He has all the qualities of a highly successful physician scientist, and I expect he will continue to impress all of us as his career advances.”

Sean Taverna and Ravi Sun

Dr. Taverna and Outstanding Achievement Award recipient Ravi Sun.Image by Evan Lewis.

Achievement Awards also went to Toni Lazic, who was selected for an Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) Health Services Fellowship, and to Carol Morris, who received an NIH National Eye Institute R00 Supplement Award. Lazic was also one of 10 outstanding student posters at the 2023 Academy Health Conference, and Morris was noted for her first-place finish in the Conductor & BioVentures Category at the 2023 Health Care Innovation Sprint at the University of Central Arkansas.

Lazic, who is the Health Systems and Services Research program, expressed pleasure with the advancement in his education.

Graduate School crowd picture.

Attendees at the Graduate School Winter Awards Reception.Image by Evan Lewis.

“It’s been a transformative experience. ACHI has provided me not just an opportunity to further my education but also a platform for personal and professional growth,” Lazic said. “I’ve had the privilege of engaging with a diverse and talented community of peers and mentors who are playing a pivotal role in shaping my academic and personal development.”

“I appreciate the way the Graduate School celebrates the achievements of their students, said Morris, who is on the GPIBS – Neuroscience track. “It’s really motivating and helps us keep the momentum toward reaching our goals.”

Additional student achievements:

  • Aric Anloague — first-place poster presentation at 2023 Student Research Day, 2023 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Pre-Meeting Young Investigator Travel Grant
  • Mara Campbell —Graduate School panel discussion participant for 2023 summer research students
    Sean Taverna and Brandon Hogland.

    Brandon Hogland receives the Kyle Urquhart Travel Award.Image by Evan Lewis.

  • LeKivia Cobb —Graduate School panel discussion participant for 2023 summer research students
  • Jacob Edmondson — Graduate School panel discussion participant for 2023 summer research students
  • Khandoker Usran Ferdous — 2023 Hemostasis and Thrombosis Research Society Students Exploring Academic Careers in Hematology Workshop Travel Grant
  • Brandon Hogland — Kyle Urquhart Travel Award
  • Jessica Kelliher — best graduate student poster, 2023 Cancer Institute Retreat
  • Kanishka Manna — second place in the Bioinformatics posters category, 2023 Southeast Regional Institutional Development Award Meeting
  • Taiquitha Robins —Graduate School panel discussion participant for 2023 summer research students

The 2023 Fall Mentor Awards went to faculty members who mentored graduate students.

“This is my first time mentoring students as a primary investigator,” said Tara Johnson, M.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine. “It’s been a positive experience. UAMS has great graduate students.”

The Fall Mentor awardees are:

  • Mathias Brochhausen, Ph.D., for mentoring Cilia Zayas
  • Stephanie Byrum, Ph.D., and Michael Robeson II, Ph.D., for mentoring Kanishka Manna
  • Cesar Compadre, Ph.D., for mentoring Phuc Tran
  • Corey Hayes, Pharm.D., Ph.D., for mentoring Catherine Shoults
  • Tara Johnson, M.D., for mentoring Namarta Kapil
  • Sara Jones, Ph.D., for mentoring Devin Terry
  • Hong-yu Li, Ph.D., for mentoring Phuc Tran and Xiuqi Wang
  • Lin-Xi Li, Ph.D., for mentoring Miguel Mercado
  • Justin Leung, Ph.D., and Brian Koss, Ph.D., for mentoring Jessica Kelliher
  • Corey Nagel, Ph.D., for mentoring Tammy Webb
  • David Ussery, Ph.D., for mentoring Sangam Kandel