MCS Students Earn Education and Research Awards
By Amy Pavlak
The Mellon College of Science (MCS) presented its awards for education and research during the college’s annual faculty meeting on Monday, May 5. Winners included Michael Gamalinda, Kelsey Hallinen, Emily Daniels Weiss, Anindita Das and Qin Gao.
The Guy C. Berry Graduate Research Award, which recognizes excellence in research by MCS graduate students, was presented to Michael Gamalinda, a graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences. Gamalinda is working to gain a clear picture of how ribosomes assemble. Made of 79 proteins and four RNA molecules, ribosomes translate the information encoded in RNA into proteins. Working in the laboratory of Professor John Woolford and with collaborators in Spain, China and Germany, Gamalinda focuses his research efforts on ribosomal proteins (r proteins). R proteins interact with ribosomal RNA (rRNA) in a step-by-step process to build a ribosome. Gamalinda uses genetic tools to deplete a specific r protein and then watches to see what steps in assembly fail to occur properly. While a typical graduate student’s thesis might involve studying in-depth the function of one or two proteins, Gamalina has investigated the functions of more than 30 different r proteins. He discovered how the different r proteins bind to rRNA as assembly proceeds and how those associations affect binding of other r proteins and assembly factors as well as the overall structural organization of the assembling ribosome. ”Michael’s thesis project has significantly advanced our understanding of the framework of ribosome assembly,” Woolford wrote in a letter nominating Gamalinda for the award.
Kelsey Hallinen received the Dr. J. Paul Fugassi and Linda E. Monteverde Award, which is presented to a graduating female senior with the greatest academic achievement and professional promise. According to Prof. Stephanie Tristram-Nagle, one of her research advisors, Hallinen’s “true personality is that of a leader.” Hallinen began doing research with Tristram-Nagle during her sophomore year, measuring the densities of lipid/water mixtures to understand how lipids function in lung surfactant. For a summer she worked at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory with Sébastien Boutet to help develop new techniques that make use of the damaging power of the x-ray beam to make “imprints” on a sample. Hallinen is currently working with CMU Physics Professor Robert Swendsen on a project using Monte Carlo methods to answer various questions in statistical mechanics. Outside of the lab, Hallinen is very involved in the CMU community and beyond. She tutors and mentors physics students, and has been a resident assistant, sexual assault advisor and SafeZone Ally for LGBT students. She also organized projects for CMU’s Alternative Break service trip, and she is a camp counselor at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Heart Camp for Kids. Hallinen will receive a B.S. in physics with a minor in history, with university and MCS research honors, at this spring’s commencement. She plans to pursue a doctorate in biological physics at the University of Michigan.
Emily Daniels Weiss, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry, received the Hugh D. Young Graduate Teaching Award, which recognizes effective teaching by graduate students. Organic Chemistry courses have a bad reputation, but Weiss’s students had a special weapon—their TA. “Emily Weiss rocks my world.” “I consider myself lucky to have been her student.” “Her explanations and handouts not only clarified lecture material but enabled me to more fully engage with it.” Whether she is teaching recitations for Organic Chemistry, Introduction to Modern Chemistry or Lab IV: Molecular Spectroscopy and Dynamics, Weiss’s passion for teaching shines through. Her students recognize that she does everything in her power to help them undertsand complex topics, and to keep them engaged with and challenged by the material, all while being encouraging and supportive. In addition to her own research efforts, Weiss attends almost every lecture for the classes she TAs plus several workshops offered through the Eberly Center’s Future Faculty Program. As part of that program, she was selected as a Graduate Teaching Fellow, responsible for working with TAs across campus, facilitating workshops, and performing observations on their classroom teaching.
Graduate students Anindita Das and Qin Gao were recognized for receiving the McWilliams Graduate Fellowship. To read more about Das and Gao, please visit: http://www.cmu.edu/mcs/news/pressreleases/2014/0507-mcwilliams-fellows.html