Graduate Spotlight: UGA ARCS Foundation Scholars

2009-10 UGA ARCS Foundation Scholars (from L to R): Benjamin Austin, Elizabeth Rahn, Megan McCormick, Michael Stramiello, Caryn Hale, Meagan McManus, Carly Jordan

grey rule

Benjamin Austin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Psychology Departmentís Cognitive/Experimental Program. Using brain imaging technology, he is investigating neural plasticity, the ability of neural circuits in the brain to change over time in response to practice, in schizophrenia. Austinís work was recently awarded two of the UGA Graduate School highest honors Ė the Deanís Award and the Dissertation Completion Award. He plans to graduate in August 2010 and is pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship in cognitive neuroscience.

Caryn Hale of Baton Rouge, La., is pursing her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology. Carynís research focuses on a newly discovered RNA-based genome defense system in prokaryotic organisms. Her work may provide the means for experimental gene slicing in prokaryotes and for the development of a novel class of antibiotics. Her work has yielded publications in the scientific journals Nucleic Acid Research, RNA, and (soon) Cell. Upon graduation, Caryn intends to continue her research on non-coding RNAs by pursuing a post-doctoral fellowship.

Carly Jordan is pursuing her Ph.D. in cellular biology. She is examining the apicoplast, a unique and essential organelle in the human parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which may serve as a target for potential drug therapies. She is passionate about teaching and received an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2008. After graduation, she hopes to find a position teaching biology and mentoring undergraduate researchers.

Megan McCormick of Fayetteville, Ga., is a Ph.D. candidate in psychology. She is currently examining the barriers that prevent adolescent organ transplant recipients from adhering to their immunosuppressant drug regimens. She hopes that a better understanding of this issue can lead to better detection and health outcomes for young patients. She has co-authored five published journal articles and one book chapter in the areas of pediatric chronic illness and pain management and has presented research at two national conferences. After graduation, she plans to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric psychology and continue her research in the areas of non-adherence and disease adaptation in pediatric populations.

Meagan McManus is pursuing her Ph.D. in pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences. She is studying the molecular mechanisms that dictate neurodegenerative disease development. Her research is currently evaluating the use of mitochondrially-targeted antioxidants as a potential therapeutic treatment for Alzheimerís disease. Meagan is active in a number of graduate student organizations on campus, having served as president of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Sciences Chapter at UGA and as a departmental representative in the Graduate Student Association.

Elizabeth Rahn is pursuing a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary neuroscience. A native of Muscle Shoals, Ala., she received a B.A. in psychology from Auburn University. While at Auburn she received funding at the university and national levels for her work on learning and memory. At UGA, she has received five grants to fund her work on chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain and its modulation with cannabinoids, synthetic cannabis-like compounds. Additional accolades include a Graduate School Deanís Award, Conference of Graduate Schools Master Thesis Award, and a fellowship from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities to attend the 57th Annual Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany.

Michael Stramiello, of Macon, Ga., is pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience. His research focuses on the cellular mechanisms that affect synaptic plasticity in the brain and play a role in various disorders of learning and memory, including addiction and Alzheimerís disease. Michael is an active volunteer in several organizations that seek to alleviate the negative impacts of these disorders upon the Athens community, including the Athens Justice Project, Hands on Northeast Georgia, and the Odyssey/Vistacare Hospice.